Family, friends and community members Friday morning comforted one another as they paid their last respects to a 16-month-old girl found dead in her Joliet Township home last week.
Mourners, some wearing white "Team Semaj" sweatshirts, filed past the body of Semaj Crosby, which was in a white casket draped in pink netting and surrounded by balloons and flowers at the Prayer Tower Ministries Church of God in Christ in Joliet.
The young girl's parents, Sheri Gordon and James Crosby, hugged one another as they stood before the girl's casket.
A funeral service was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the church following a two-hour visitation.
Authorities discovered the girl's body under a couch in her home in the early hours of April 27. The girl was first reported missing April 25 and authorities believed she had wandered off. Authorities, family and volunteers spent two days searching for the girl before she was found.
The girl's death has sparked criticism about the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from a Will County judge and others. The agency had been investigating complaints of neglect involving the family and had been at the home on Louis Road just hours before Semaj disappeared.
"I believe that this community failed this child and we don't want to see this happen again," said Pastor Warren Dorris, who is a cousin of the girl's mother.
Dorris, who leads Prayer Tower Ministries Church of God in Christ, also was critical of DCFS, calling them "Disconnected Family Safety" and telling reporters the agency had "low credibility."
Dorris called for accountability in the girl's death.
"Whatever happened to this child, whoever is responsible for this ... needs to be held accountable," he told reporters moments before visitation began. "If someone knew that this child was in that home, they need to be held accountable."
Authorities have not charged anyone in the girl's death. After an autopsy was conducted last week, officials said additional information, including toxicology reports, was needed before the coroner's office could rule on a cause of death. WIll County sheriff's officials said there were no visible signs of blunt force trauma on the girl's body.
Dorris said he hoped the community would learn from the girl's death and move forward.
"We're going to challenge ourselves, we're going to use this incident to challenge ourselves and the community to do better," he said.
The home in which the girl was found was deemed uninhabitable following an investigation by county officials after her death. Authorities said the home was in "deplorable" condition.
DCFS Director George Sheldon said at a legislative hearing earlier this week that he has ordered a "full quality assurance review" of the case. But Sheldon said DCFS does not take children into state custody "because of a dirty house," saying that is often an indication of poverty, not a lack of love or care.
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