Coroner's jury rules child's death a homicide

By WEEK Producer

November 14, 2013 Updated Nov 14, 2013 at 7:49 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. – The death of an 8-year-old boy, found in a refrigerator has been ruled a homicide by a coroner's jury.

The ruling comes after a Peoria Police detective pointed out several discrepancies in family testimony during the jury hearing Thursday afternoon.

Marquail Johnson was found by Peoria Police on August 15 inside an old style abandoned refrigerator just down from his home on Western Avenue. He was reported missing by his family the night before.

Detective Amanda Chalus with the Peoria Police Department said she has found discrepancies in the family’s statement.

The family had said the boy was autistic but the detective found that he had never been diagnosed with autism. The mother also claimed he was prescribed medicine to help with his autism and had taken it that morning. It was found, he had never been prescribed the medicine or had it in his system according to toxicology results.

"I responded to Miss Johnson's place of work and found out that she indeed did not work that day. She was off all day. Through various interviews with family, friends, persons that were in the area at time, previously had indicated that Michael Johnson was at the residence all day, he was not," added Detective Chalus.

A young cousin told police that Johnson was last seen walking down the alley with an unknown white male. Police have ruled out that possibility.

It was brought up that area children might have been playing hide and seek and he hid in the old refrigerator. Police have determined the kids were not playing hide and seek.

Also, Detective Chalus said the crime lab did not find fingerprints on the inside or the outside of the fridge.

An autopsy showed no signs of trauma on Johnson's body. Police said it is still unclear how the boy ended up in the fridge.

The investigation is ongoing and no one has been charged.