The trial of an Illinois man accused of murdering a toddler whose body was found dumped in a park got underway this week as family members were forced to relive the horror of learning of the boy’s gruesome death.
Prosecutors said Kamel Harris was supposed to be caring for 2-year-old Kyrian Knox in August 2015 while his mother Lanisha left him in Rockford with the man and five others living in a two-bedroom apartment while she and Harris daughter, who was a childhood friend, looked for work in Iowa, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Knox intended to be gone for just a few weeks, but prosecutors say Harris stopped responding to calls or texts by the first week of September.
But they argued, without giving any details, at some point Harris “snapped” and killed the toddler.
Prosecutors said Harris wrapped up the toddler’s body, placed it in the back seat of a loaner, 1996 Chevrolet Camaro vehicle, drove into the Chicago area, and disposed of the body parts in a lagoon in an unkempt park on Chicago’s west side around August 31, 2015.
Five days later, after spotting the deceased toddler’s foot floating in the lagoon, a caller dialed 911 to report the severed body part. This lead to authorities draining the lagoon and finding another plastic bag tied to a barbell, which contained the toddler’s head. The rest of his body was never found.
Harris, 44, was charged with the boy’s murder the next year after investigators learned that the blood they recovered from his vehicle belonged to the slain toddler. He faces felony counts of first degree murder, concealment of homicidal death and dismembering a human body.
The child’s relatives, in court for the trial, sobbed as they heard the description of the discovery and saw photos of the body parts, the Tribune said.
Knox, 28, took the stand on the first day of the trial saying that she was struggling as a single mom, but a reconnection with a high school classmate led the two to try finding work in Iowa, sharing an apartment and starting new lives in which they could raise their sons. But since Harris was charged, the two no longer speak, she said.
Police had said Harris killed the lactose-intolerant boy cried all afternoon after being fed milk. But Knox disputed that in her testimony. Prosecutors said Harris told another person that he was angry with Knox for not giving him enough money for babysitting her son.
Harris lawyers argued that Knox would suddenly change locations whenever she had the impulse, taking her son with her and that she had a poor relationship with the boy’s father.
They also argued that he gave the boy to three people who he believed Knox sent to retrieve the boy, thinking “everything was fine.”
Prosecutors say they don’t have fingerprint or DNA evidence linking Harris to the killing because of how the boy’s body was disposed of in the water.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.