HOUMA, La. – A Louisiana woman and her boyfriend were arrested Tuesday after the woman’s 2-year-old son, who she claimed had been abducted during a walk, was found dead in a trash can.
Maya Gwenlyn Jones, 28, of Houma, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Ezekiel Harry. The boy’s 26-pound body was found inside a duffel bag that had been stuffed into a trash can.
“Discovery of this precious child was the result of numerous experienced investigators … who were driven to see this investigation through,” Houma police Chief Dana Coleman said Wednesday.
Ezekiel’s three older siblings have been placed in the custody of their father, who on Tuesday pleaded online for help finding his missing son.
“All I want is you,” Trey Watkins wrote alongside a photo of himself with his son in his arms. “All I want to hear and to know is you’re OK, my son.”
Jones is being held without bond in the Terrebonne Parish Jail. Her live-in boyfriend, Jermaine Michael Robinson, 37, is also being held on the same charges, according to jail records.
According to Houma police officials, dispatchers received a call around noon on Tuesday regarding a potential child abduction. Jones told officers she and her four children had been walking in the 100 block of Mahler Street, across Bayou Terrebonne from their home, when a person in a gray truck passed by, grabbed Ezekiel and drove away.
Detectives who began investigating the boy’s disappearance quickly grew suspicious, however.
“Based on information released by Maya Jones and intel received by law enforcement, we were able to immediately learn that her accounts of what was being reported were false,” Coleman said during a news conference. “At this point, our investigators suspected foul play, and it was our immediate goal to find 2-year-old Ezekiel Harry.”
Watch Wednesday’s news conference below, courtesy of WVUE in New Orleans.
Multiple local and state agencies participated in the search for the missing boy, which included searches of Bayou Terrebonne and the nearby Intracoastal Waterway. The Louisiana State Police also issued a statewide Level II Endangered Missing Child Advisory on behalf of police in Houma, a city of a little over 32,000 people that serves as the Terrebonne Parish seat.
Coleman said the search for Ezekiel took a turn when detectives recovered surveillance footage from the family’s neighborhood that showed Jones and Robinson leaving their Cadiere Street home overnight Monday with a black duffel bag. A camera outside a business in the area also captured images of the pair with the bag.
Footage showed the couple return to their neighborhood — without the duffel bag — around 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Additional footage from the area where Jones claimed her son had been abducted showed her holding an infant carrier as she walked later that morning with her three other children, who are all between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
“We’ve learned when these images were captured, the carrier was empty,” the chief said.
Detectives took both Jones and Robinson into custody. Jones was “thoroughly questioned,” at which time several discrepancies were uncovered in her story, Coleman said.
It was during police questioning that one of the suspects gave detectives information that led to Ezekiel’s body. Around 6 p.m. Tuesday, about six hours after the child had been reported missing, his lifeless body was found stuffed into a trash can on Daspit Street, about a mile and a half from the family’s neighborhood.
His cause of death was not immediately known. Authorities are investigating whether there had been ongoing abuse within the boy’s home.
“A precious gift within our community was taken from us,” the chief said. “Children like this make up a small percentage of our population, but they are definitely 100% of our future.
“The future of Ezekiel Harry was taken away from us by these two.”
Prosecutors said both Jones and Robinson could face the death penalty in Ezekiel’s killing.