The search for 4-year-old Jassiah Clark, missing since Saturday night, ended tragically Monday night when his body was found in a deep hole about 25 feet from his home, Baton Rouge police said.
An officer found Jassiah’s body about 7:30 p.m. after using a flashlight to take a closer look at the hole in a vacant lot behind Jassiah’s home. Sgt. Mary Ann Godawa, a police spokeswoman, said the hole was filled with water and dirt.
“We had hoped we would find Jassiah alive and well, but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” Godawa said. “This is a tragic incident that has affected everyone who worked this case.”
About 100 officers from several agencies including the FBI were involved in the search, Baton Rouge police spokesman Lt. Jonathan Dunnam said earlier Monday.
By Monday night, the lot, once filled with grass, had been turned to tire-tracked mud. Police tape surrounded the perimeter.
Lesly Reed, Jassiah’s aunt, said late Monday that the family had looked at the hole several times in the past few days, but they thought it was a puddle because only a shallow amount of water was sitting atop the mud.
She also said that at one point in the search, she had seen a police officer stumble at the hole, but he managed to grab a fence to steady himself.
“I’m pissed off,” Reed said about the city-parish not addressing the hazard. She said she plans to be at Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office first thing Tuesday morning to express her anger.
“It’s been very unacceptable,” Reed said. “It could have been anybody’s child.”
No determination has been made yet whether the boy’s death was an accident or a slaying, police have said.
Jassiah had been missing since Saturday. He was last seen between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. near his home on Robertson Avenue. Family members said he had been playing in the street with his friends.
On Monday afternoon, police and unmarked cars lined Robertson Avenue, where the boy’s family lives, as groups of officers spoke with children and adults in an eight-block area, Godawa said earlier Monday. The officers were joined by more than 20 members of Jassiah’s extended family, who had gathered at his house and the surrounding streets to look for him and also to stand together in the family’s driveway and await more news.
The boy’s death is the second recent tragedy for his family. Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Jassiah’s uncle and his mother’s boyfriend killed each other while they were drunk and arguing, while Jassiah and his 10-year-old brother looked on.
Lester Reed, 35, stabbed 19-year-old Tevin Crump, who then shot Reed in the front yard of a Washington Court home where they were living. Jassiah and his brother saw the events unfold from feet away. In the weeks up to his disappearance, Jassiah cried almost every day and said he missed his uncle, his mother, Brittni Clark, said in an interview Sunday night.
“It reopened everything back up again,” Chapreca Harris said Monday afternoon. Harris is Lester Reed’s former girlfriend of 10 years who remains close to the family. “The family had to come together for that. Now we’ve had to come together for Jassiah. We just need a break.”
Ruby Chambers, who is Lester Reed’s mother and Jassiah’s grandmother, added on Monday afternoon: “This seems like a nightmare to me. It ain’t no great feeling.”