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A North Chicago boy reported missing in the early days of 2022 was allegedly murdered by his family in the waning days of 2021.
The body of Damari Perry, 6, was found early in the morning of Jan. 8 near an abandoned house in Gary, Indiana — nearly 45 miles away from where he'd been reported as last seen in Skokie, Illinois — according to a press release from the North Chicago Police Department.
His mother, Jannie Perry, 38, his brother, Jeremiah Perry, 20, and an unnamed juvenile family member are currently in police custody and have been charged with abusing and killing Damari and concealing his body.
Damari was reported missing from North Chicago shortly before 9:00 p.m. on Jan. 5, though a press release from the Skokie Police said he'd been last seen at 3:00 p.m. on Jan. 4 in Skokie — about 25 miles from his home — by his 16-old sister. The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined local law enforcement in searching for him.
According to Chicago Fox affiliate WFLD, Damari Perry's unnamed teenage sister and his mother Jannie Perry, 38, initially told police that Damari and the teenager had been taken on a "play date" by a 20-something woman named Monique who supposed had a 6-year-old son named Tatum.
"He was out with his sister at a play date. She had a cocktail. I guess someone put something in her drink. She ended up falling asleep," Jannie Perry told WFLD before her arrest. "When she woke up, my son was gone. When she questioned the girl about where my son was the girl said she didn't know. When she came home, I reported him missing."
Monique was supposedly accompanied by a man named either "Wacko" or "Chaos" when they picked up Damari and his sister, but they said the man was gone when the sister woke up. The Perry family described Wacko/Chaos as a 22-year-old Black man with a cursive tattoo above one eyebrow, short braids or dreadlocks, dark skin and a thin build.
Police now say that story was false, according to Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ.
Instead, prosecutors said at Jeremiah Perry's Sunday bond hearing, said that on Dec. 29 — his birthday was on Dec. 30 — Jennie Perry decided he deserved to be punished, WFLD reported.
“He was placed into a cold shower for an extended period of time, held there by family members at the direction of the mother,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said, according to Chicago station WGN. "At some point, he became unresponsive, vomited and died."
No one in the family called 911 between the time that Damari allegedly started vomiting, was pulled out of the tub and died. Instead, WFLD reports, prosecutors say that Jeremiah and Jannie Perry discussed disposing of Damari's body and eventually settled on taking his remains to Gary.
But, WGN reports, Damari's body was allegedly kept concealed in the family home or car while those two arrived at that decision.
"I’ve been working in criminal law for almost 20 years now and this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen," Rinehart told WGN.
Jannie and Jeremiah Perry as well as an unnamed juvenile in the family were arrested on Friday; it is not clear if the third family member arrested was the sister who reported having been with him in Skokie. Jannie Perry faces first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death and obstruction if justice charges. Jeremiah Perry faces charges of aggravated battery causing bodily harm to a child under 12, concealing a homicidal death and obstructing justice. Because the third case is currently in juvenile court, it's unclear what specific charges the juvenile family member is facing.
Jeremiah Perry appeared in a Lake County, Illinois court on Sunday and was ordered held on a $3 million bond, according to WGN and jail records. Jannie Perry was reportedly taken from jail to a hospital on Saturday after complaining of illness, WFLD reported; she will make her first court appearance after she is medically discharged.
Jannie Perry's three other children are currently in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to WGN.
Damari Perry's father, Dalvin Driver, spoke to Chicago ABC affiliate WLS after the charges were filed.
"I'm lost, man. I feel like I lost a part of myself when I got that call," Driver said of learning that his youngest child had been killed. "He was the best thing you can ever have for the time that I had to spend with him. It was some of the best time that I had in my life. He was just the life of me, man."
"Why would a person hurt a child — my child at that?" he asked.
A verified GoFundMe set up by Driver's stepdaughter and Damari's stepsister, Jakara Hunter, to help with funeral expenses for Damari referred to Jannie Perry as "a neglectful mom."
"During the phone interview she sounded so heartless," Hunter wrote. "As if she already knew what was going on or as if she had practiced her lines."
"I pray God don't have no mercy on none of their souls for what they did to him," Driver's niece and Damari's cousin Deena Driver told WLS.
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