James Crosby – the father of Sema’j Crosby, a Preston Heights toddler found dead under a legless couch last year – has sued the 17-month-old girl’s mother and a family services contractor for alleged negligence he claims led to his daughter’s death.
The lawsuit landed in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday and named defendants as Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois (a contractor with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services) and Sheri Gordon, Sema’j’s mother.
Crosby’s lawsuit alleges that the girl’s mother “exposed Sema’j Crosby to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions” and “placed her under the couch where she died.”
The suit also alleges that Children’s Home and Aid visited the home the day before Sema’j went missing and “should have observed the home in an unsafe, unsanitary condition with bedbugs, roaches, vermin and which presented a clear safety hazard for any child within the home.”
The nonprofit agency failed to report hazardous conditions in the home, failed to train its staff in a proper manner and failed to follow processes to remove the infant girl from the home, the lawsuit said, alleging those missteps contributed to Sema’j’s death.
The father’s lawyer was not available Wednesday. The supervisor at Children’s Home and Aid also could not be reached.
On April 25, 2017, Department of Children and Family Services personnel saw Sema’j and her brothers at their home in the 300 block of Louis Road south of Joliet. At 5:45 p.m., Gordon called 911 and reported her daughter missing.
Police later would discover Sema’j’s body inside the house under a couch.
Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Rick Ackerson called the home’s condition “deplorable.” The Will County Land Use Department tagged the house as “unfit for occupancy.”
The Will County coroner later ruled Sema’j’s death a homicide and said she died from asphyxiation.
No one has been charged in Sema’j’s death.