A mother and her boyfriend burned a 4-year-old dead child inside an empty house in Englewood.
Alyssa Garcia, 27, Christian Camerena, 19, and a 17-year-old were charged with attempted arson and concealment of death.
The suspects were arrested after the body of the 4-year-old – identified by Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office as Manuel Aguilar – was discovered inside a burned blanket in the basement of the vacant house.
As reported by CBS Local, Garcia made the plan out of fear that the state would take her other five children.
Manuel died at Garcia’s home on July 29, according to investigators. When she realized her child wasn’t breathing, she washed his body, wrapped him in a towel, put him in the trunk of her car, and sprayed air freshener. Then she and Camerena drove the vehicle to the vacant house where they set the body on fire.
On Thursday, prosecutors said that during a bond hearing, Manuel was severely malnourished. It was initially thought he was a baby.
As reported by ABC 7 Chicago, police and firefighters received reports of arson in the Englewood neighborhood at around 9:45 p.m. Upon arrival, officers saw three people running from the scene. They smelled of lighter fluid. They were taken in for questioning.
The suspects can face additional charges pending autopsy results.
In a video recorded statement, Garcia said she didn’t seek medical attention for Manuel out of fear that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services would take away her other children, as reported by Appeal-Democrat.
Candice Perez, Camarena’s mother who is a neighbor of Garcia, said she had tried to help the children. “We have brought those kids to our house, we have fed them, we were there for them,” Perez said. “Just because they weren’t our kids and just because they weren’t related to us, we treated them the same way we would any of our other kids. Even the little boy.”
According to a spokesperson with the Department of Children and Family Services, allegations of abuse and neglect are being investigated.