HOUMA, La. – A Louisiana woman and her boyfriend now face the death penalty in the July murder of the woman’s 2-year-old son, whose body was found stuffed into a trash can after she reported he was abducted.
Ezekiel Harry, of Houma, died July 12 of severe blunt force trauma to the head. His mother, Maya Gwenlyn Jones, 28, and her boyfriend, Jermaine Michael Robinson, 37, are charged with first-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors said early in the investigation that the case could be one of capital murder.
According to Houma police officials, dispatchers received a call around noon on July 12 regarding a potential child abduction. Jones told officers she and her four children had been walking in the 100 block of Mahler Street, across Bayou Terrebonne from their home, when a person in a gray truck passed by, grabbed Ezekiel and drove away.
Detectives investigating Ezekiel’s disappearance quickly grew suspicious and suspected something terrible had happened to the toddler.
Multiple local and state agencies participated in the search for the missing boy, which included searches of Bayou Terrebonne and the nearby Intracoastal Waterway. The Louisiana State Police also issued a statewide Level II Endangered Missing Child Advisory on behalf of police in Houma, a city of a little over 32,000 people that serves as the Terrebonne Parish seat.
Houma police Chief Dana Coleman said the search for Ezekiel took a turn when detectives recovered surveillance footage from the family’s neighborhood that showed Jones and Robinson leaving their Cadiere Street home overnight Monday with a black duffel bag. A camera outside a business in the area also captured images of the pair with the bag.
Footage showed the couple return to their neighborhood — without the duffel bag — around 5 a.m. that day.
Additional footage from the area where Jones claimed her son had been abducted showed her holding an infant carrier as she walked with her three other children, who are all between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
“We’ve learned when these images were captured, the carrier was empty,” the chief said.
Detectives took in both Jones and Robinson for questioning. Jones was “thoroughly questioned,” at which time several discrepancies were uncovered in her story, Coleman said.
It was during police questioning that one of the suspects gave detectives information that led to Ezekiel’s body. Around 6 p.m. on July 12, about six hours after the child had been reported missing, his lifeless body was found stuffed into a trash can on Daspit Street, about a mile and a half from the family’s neighborhood.
Ezekiel’s siblings are now in the custody of their father, who appeared in court Wednesday wearing a T-shirt bearing photos of his slain son, according to WWL-TV in New Orleans.
Across the aisle from Trey Harry Sr. sat Jones and Robinson, handcuffed and wearing red jailhouse jumpsuits, the news station reported.
Family members told a WWL reporter they have one question for the couple: Why?
“I’m still trying to figure out, why a 2-year-old? And why did you do that?” Ezekiel’s grandmother, Cynthia Harry, said. “What did he do so bad for you to harm him like that?
“I don’t think I’m going to every find out the truth, but I hope we will.”
Ezekiel’s obituary described him as a “typical little boy,” always smiling and running around.
“He was bold, tough and loved to laugh,” the obituary read. “He enjoyed playing with his father and siblings. We will miss him every day, but we’re sure that he would want us to be as strong as he was.”
Trey Harry posts about his children, including Ezekiel, often on his Facebook page. Most posts about his younger son are about how much he and the children miss the toddler.
“I wish justice meant getting you back,” he wrote on Wednesday. “I miss you son.”