Two families are mourning the loss of 14-month-old Taquan Willis, who was found by a relative on Sunday morning. His suspected killer is a 9-year-old friend of the family, which adds a new level of anguish to the situation.
Police have stated that the two boys were sleeping in the same room when Melissa Wilbourn heard a noise coming from the room. When she went to check on them, baby Taquan was unconscious and "limp," she told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
He was rushed to a hospital but pronounced dead upon arrival. Taquan's mother, Alisha Johnson, told police she could not imagine that the 9-year-old would have beaten her son, but officials believed otherwise and took him into custody. He was charged with first-degree murder in juvenile court, but his name has not been released to the public in an effort to protect his privacy.
Taquan's family gathered for a memorial and remembered the energy the little boy had. "I loved his smile and the way he poked his lips out to give me a kiss," his father, Todd A. Willis Jr., said.
"He was just a happy baby," Johnson said. "He would bring a lot of joy to you. He smiled and danced," she explained.
The death is eerily similar to that of a 10-year-old girl who was charged with manslaughter after allegedly drugging and suffocating an infant her mother was babysitting. Toxicology reports showed that the infant had the same drugs in her system that the 10-year-old took.
"She [also] suffocated her by putting her hands over her face. There are bruises all over her face," the baby's mother, Nicole Greenaway, told the press. Baby Brooklyn had a "black eye, bruises on the bridge of her nose and marks that looked like fingerprints on her cheeks," Greenaway added.
Authorities have yet to decide whether to leave the 10-year-old in the juvenile system or try her as an adult. Either way, Greenaway is "definitely glad they're finally doing something."