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Father of Sema’j Crosby files lawsuit alleging negligence in 2017 death

The father of Sema’j Crosby—an infant found dead in her Joliet Township home in April 2017—is suing the mother of his child and the Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois for negligence in the wrongful death.

The Deratany Firm filed the case this week in the Circuit Court of Cook County on the behalf of James Crosby.

“What he’s hoping to achieve is justice, that it doesn’t happen to any other child, that another parent doesn’t harm a child, and that the [Department of Child and Family Services] wouldn’t let the child be harmed,” Jay Paul Deratany, one of the attorneys for Crosby.

Among those named defendants in the lawsuit are the Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois (CHA) and Sheri Gordon, the mother of the now-deceased infant. It alleges that she exhibited negligence in her daughter’s death.

Crosby is currently looking to obtain the custody of three children shared with Gordon.

The Will County Sheriff’s Office last reported that subjects of note include Semaj’s mother, Sheri Gordon; her grandmother, Darlene Crosby; an aunt, Lakerisha Gordon; and a friend of the grandmother’s.

The case filing claims that CHA through its contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) demonstrated willful and wanton conduct and negligence in the wrongful death.

The Will County Coroner’s Office ruled the infant’s death as asphyxia by homicide.

In the case filing, the plaintiff places blame on Gordon for allegedly placing her daughter under the couch where she died.

Gordon was serviced around that time by the CHA as a contractor for DCFS’ Intact Program, an initiative aimed at keeping families together instead of placing children in foster care.

Around 2012, DCFS privatized the Intact Program and began contracting with agencies such as the CHA and other service providers to deliver services.

The lawsuit alleges that CHA “failed to identify, report and act on the deplorable, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions of the home.” It goes on to claim that CHA failed to “provide proper assessment, and identify and act upon the cognitive impairments of Gordon.”

The case filing shows that a CHA caseworker had visited the Joliet Township home April 24 the day before the infant was reported missing.

The home was declared inhabitable April 28 the day after Sema’j was found dead, the case filing shows. At the time, the scene was described as having “safety hazards” and as being “deplorable”, with bedbugs, roaches and other vermin, and garbage throughout.

What’s more is the home was burned to the ground on May 6. Authorities at the time suspected arson.

To date, the details surrounding the case leave no one held in contempt.

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