Local News

Autopsy: Garner toddler was victim of violence

Posted June 1, 2009 4:07 p.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2009 4:48 p.m. EDT

— How DeVarion Gross died is still a mystery. An autopsy report concludes the toddler was subject to “undetermined homicidal violence” and may have suffered abuse during his short life.

DeVarion's grandmother called police after she found his body in a trash can at his mother’s house in November. Garner Police charged the boy's mother, Sherita Nicole McNeil, 23, of 1852 Spring Drive, on Jan. 22 with first-degree murder and concealing the death of a person.

Investigators have said that they believe the boy had been dead since early October, when he was last seen alive. They estimate he was 19 months old.

He was found Nov. 14, wearing only a diaper, wrapped in two plastic bags in a trash can that had been drenched with bleach. DeVarion had three healing fractures on his ribs, injuries the autopsy report says are “a strong indication of abuse.”

“We know that Sherita McNeil, upon DeVarion's death, which we believe occurred in early October of this past year, concealed his body in her residence for a period of approximately six weeks, using bleach to mask the smell, until he was discovered by family members," Garner Police Chief Tom Moss said in January.

Police said DeVarion was last seen alive Oct. 3, when he was picked up from day care. On Oct. 6, police said, McNeil told the day care that the boy was staying with his godmother.

"Sherita McNeil repeatedly lied to family, friends and others about her son's welfare and whereabouts," Moss said.

Wake County Child Protective Services had two reports from individuals concerned about DeVarion, said Warren Ludwig, child welfare administrator for Wake County, including allegations that McNeil never wanted the child and was having financial difficulties.

Both sources told Child Protective Services that prior to DeVarion's birth, McNeil had arranged for a friend to raise him, but reclaimed him when he was 8 months old.

CPS did not act on those reports, but sent a letter detailing the information to the Garner Police Department for review.

Although police did not give a motive for the crime, search warrants suggest they suspected McNeil might have wanted to get rid of her son.

Investigators searching the home uncovered letters from DeVarion's father, Eric Chambers, expressing concern over McNeil getting rid of their son, according to a Dec. 3 search warrant.