Local News

Gaming System Focus of Probe Into Baby's Death

Posted October 24, 2007 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2007 8:36 p.m. EDT

— The focus of the investigation into the death of an 11-month-old girl has shifted to a video-game system owned by the baby's mother, who is accused of killing her.

Johni Michelle Heuser, 25, of 1680 Ray Road in Spring Lake, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Harmony Jade Creech. She was being held without bond in the Harnett County Detention Center.

Harmony was reported missing Friday morning, prompting a statewide Amber Alert as local, state and federal authorities scrambled to find the child.

Authorities on Saturday found the baby's body, wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed in an empty diaper box that had been put in a corner of the attic of the home Heuser was renting. Heuser told investigators that she found the baby dead in her crib several weeks ago and hid the death out of fear.

The disappearance was reported the same day that Harmony's father, Sgt. Ronald Creech II, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, returned from a 15-month deployment in Iraq.

The state Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill has been trying to determine how and when the baby died.

As part of their investigation, authorities seized an Xbox video-game system from Heuser's home, and they were examining her playing habits in hopes of developing leads in the case.

"It can be utilized to connect with the Internet, so you can talk with other people, play games with other people, that sort of thing," Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said.

In an e-mail to WRAL, a woman who claims to live near the family said she recognized Heuser's game character on her computer.

She said Heuser was online as late as last Thursday to participate in a role-playing game.

Investigators have been trying to interview people Heuser communicated with in online chat rooms to determine what they knew of Heuser and if they knew anything of Harmony's death before last weekend, Rollins said. He declined to say whether the amount of time Heuser spent online contributed to the baby's death, but he did note that the home showed signs of neglect.

"We're at a stage of this investigation where we really can't give a lot of details," he said, adding that more arrests were possible.

Investigators also were examining other items from the home, such as a cell phone, a computer and financial records in hopes that something will lead to the truth, Rollins said.

Heuser's three other children, all under age 5, have been placed in foster care, and a custody hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.