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Toddler Dies Nearly A Week After Aunt Allegedly Pushed Him Off Chicago Pier

Victoria Moreno, the aunt of 3-year-old Josiah Brown, is accused of pushing the boy into the waters of Lake Michigan, then doing nothing to help him.

By Jax Miller
Woman Charged For Allegedly Pushing Nephew Into Lake Michigan

A 3-year-old boy whom police say was intentionally pushed off a Chicago pier at the hands of his aunt has died at the hospital after nearly a week.

Victoria Moreno, 34, was arrested on Sept. 19 after Chicago police said she pushed her toddler nephew into Lake Michigan and “did not attempt to rescue the victim.” Family members say the boy, identified by several news outlets as Josiah Brown, died shortly after 10:00 a.m. on Sunday while being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital, according to Chicago ABC affiliate WLS-TV.

At a bond hearing on Wednesday, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Lorraine Scaduto told the court the child was in cardiac arrest when rescue workers pulled him from the waters of Lake Michigan. Before the boy succumbed to his injuries, Scaduto said the victim suffered several heart attacks, seizures, and sustained swelling of the brain and bleeding in the lungs.

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Moreno was charged with first-degree attempted murder and aggravated child battery against a victim under 13 years of age resulting in permanent disability. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office has yet to announce whether or not Moreno's charges will be upgraded in light of Brown's death.

Prosecutors say that on Sept. 19, Moreno took the child from the boy’s Des Plaines, Illinois home, about 20 miles northwest of Chicago, where he lived with his grandmother and another aunt, according to CBS News Chicago.

Prosecutors said she took him to the edge of the pier and looked over each shoulder before letting the boy crawl under a chain barrier before allegedly pushing him into the water.

A pair of witnesses heard the splash and reported seeing Moreno looking down into the water.

“He was just staring up at the sky,” said one of the witnesses of the boy. “His eyes were super, super wide, and he was trying his best to stay afloat.”

One witness left to retrieve a life preserver, while another man entered the waters, according to WLS-TV. Soon, the boy sank to the bottom of the lake.

Brown would spend a total of 30 minutes in the water before responders could pull him out.

A police handout of Victoria Moreno

Moreno stayed on the scene, initially claiming to be a witness before finally telling authorities she was the boy’s aunt, prosecutors stated. Moreno allegedly said she had the boy by his shirt but let go because he “was acting up.”

Witnesses at the scene claimed Moreno looked “unwell,” as though “she wasn’t really all there.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors called Moreno’s actions “premeditated,” while Cook County Circuit Court Judge Susanna Ortiz called them “intentionally brutal and heinous.”

“Not once during any of these events did the defendant scream for help, call for help, ask for help, or try herself to help,” said Scaduto. “When the police arrived, the defendant pretended not to know anything about the child.”

Public Defender Patrick Shine denied the incident was premeditated and referred to his client’s “severe” mental health issues, which included insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Before the child’s death, loved ones created a GoFundMe page for the family, who’d referred to the boy as “JoJo.” According to WLS-TV, the boy’s grandfather, Dan Brown, said Josiah was “just a bundle of joy” who was “full of energy” and loved his father.

The victim’s father, Dantrell Brown, has been undergoing treatment of his own while awaiting a new heart. One week before Josiah entered the waters, the father also created a GoFundMe page.

“Anything helps, and this is a long recovery as I hope to get back home to my son and wife soon,” the father wrote.

According to the ABC outlet, officials with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said they had no prior incidents regarding Josiah Brown. They are also involved in the current investigation.

Moreno was denied bail and further ordered to have no contact with her family. She is expected to appear in court on Friday.