In a tragic ending, the body of a missing toddler was recovered from a pond just days after her mother was found murdered in Illinois.
Indiana State Police announced in a news release that troopers were called out to Kennedy Avenue ramp on I-80 regarding a person in a retention pond. A construction worker reportedly pointed out the body to troopers, and Hammond Fire Department officials retrieved it from the water. Indiana State Police described the person found as a Black female “whose age appeared to be less than five years old.” She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Lake County Coroner identified the victim as 1-year-old Jaclyn Angel Dobbs from Deerfield, Ill.
The Wheeling Police Department said they received a missing person report about 21-year-old Ja’nya Murphy, who is Dobbs’ mother, on November 9 at approximately 10:22 p.m. Murphy’s family reportedly became worried when she did not show up to work and had not spoken to them since the day prior.
According to the Wheeling Police Department, officers and Wheeling Fire Department officials conducted a well-being check at Murphy’s residence on Inland Drive. Officers entered her home via a balcony door and reportedly found her dead and her daughter missing. Murphy died by strangulation.
On Friday, November 12, the same day as little Jaclyn’s autopsy, an arrest was made.
Ahmeel Fowler was arrested in Missouri and charged with first-degree murder for the alleged killing of Murphy. A cause of death for the toddler has not yet been released.
Fowler has not been charged with the death of Murphy’s daughter of Jaclyn Dobbs, but police said they “anticipate additional charges” as the investigation continues.
According to the local ABC News station, police had been frantically searching for Dobbs since Tuesday night, when her mother was found murdered in her Wheeling apartment. An autopsy found Murphy had been strangled and died of asphyxiation, authorities said.
Her daughter Angel was not in the apartment, sparking a frantic search. It was a group of construction workers that led police to the retention pond off I-80 near Kennedy Avenue in Hammond after they spotted a body floating in it.
It didn’t take long for police to find the body once they made it to the area. Investigators said the pond was relatively full of water from recent rain, about four or five feet deep, and easily accessible from the nearby roadway.
Fowler was identified as a person of interest early on in the investigation and was arrested in Springfield, Missouri, on Wednesday.
He is not Jaclyn’s father but had a relationship with Murphy and was last seen with her and the child at a mall on Monday, around the time her family last had contact with her.
“We know for a fact he was in the far northern suburbs yesterday morning, and then by yesterday evening, he was in western Missouri,” Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Al Steffen said. “We are looking to recreate the track from where he was in the northwest suburbs to Missouri.”
Murphy was a 2018 graduate of Stevenson High School and lived with her daughter at the apartment building, Wheeling police said.
A family member of Murphy, whose exact relation to the slain woman could not be independently verified, said on Facebook that the family is grieving and needs time to process the tragedy and heal. “I’ve known about this for a while today, but I just couldn’t deal with it at the moment. I thank everyone who shared the pictures and posts looking for her, but for right now, our family needs this time to process and heal. I especially need this time right now, so like I said earlier, I’m not willing to talk to any reporters right now. I know you guys were just trying to reach out to see if I would be willing to talk about my cousins, but at this time, my family needs time to be together to heal,” Kenthany Angel Murphy wrote on Facebook.