A 4-year-old girl who was found dead in a Louisiana hotel room earlier this month had multiple signs of severe physical abuse, according to recently-released court documents.
The Times-Picayune and The New Orleans Advocate reported that Jo’nyri Hawkins had a healed rib fracture, bruises, and human bite marks. The 4-year-old reportedly also had vaginal trauma which was consistent with the insertion of an object similar to a finger.
Per an autopsy, Hawkins died from severe internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Officials believe someone kicked or punched her so hard it ruptured her liver and spleen, the sister publications reported.
Hawkins reportedly died in a New Orleans hotel room as her mother’s boyfriend, Anfernee Steele, 21, watched her for several hours on October 3. The mother reportedly called 911 after finding the 4-year-old limp in the hotel room.
Steele remains unaccounted for since being charged with second-degree murder for Hawkins’ death. He allegedly told police he put Hawkins in a bath after she soiled her underwear, and had left her in the tub while he and the other children slept. He reportedly said that during his nap, he heard a thump and splashing and rushed to the bathroom.
Steele claimed he pressed on Hawkins’ stomach to ensure she had not swallowed any water. He said he determined Hawkins was breathing normally before dressing her and putting her to bed, according to the Times-Picayune and Advocate.
Court records stated that Hawkins’ mother left Hawkins, a 1-year-old sibling, and a teen relative with Steele as she attended a party on October 3. The mother reportedly returned around 5 a.m.; Steele allegedly told her Hawkins fell in the tub and injured her lip.
Steele reportedly begged his girlfriend not to call 911. He also told the teen relative who was in the hotel room that night, “Remember what I told you,” as the teen walked into the hospital, the news outlets reported.
Law enforcement attempted to reinterview Steele after the autopsy was completed but they could not find him. Hawkins and Steele’s mothers claimed to not know of his whereabouts.
Steele was also charged with second-degree cruelty to juveniles. Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts should call NOPD Homicide Detective Barrett Morton at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111.
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[Featured image: Jo’nyri Hawkins/Facebook]