While police continue to search for the remains of five-month-old Joshua Summeries in a Zion landfill, authorities have charged the boyfriend of the boy's mother with his murder.
Police said Saturday morning at a news conference that Demetries Thorpe, 26, of Zion, confessed to killing the boy Wednesday morning and eventually discarding the child's remains in a Dumpster. Thorpe is being held at the Lake County jail in lieu of a $5 million bond. He is charged with first-degree murder.
In addition to a confession, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said police have surveillance footage of Thorpe placing the backpack in the Dumpster.
Nerheim said Thorpe initially told investigators the child had been kidnapped. But after being interviewed over the course of two days, Thorpe eventually told police that he killed the child by putting his hands over the boy's face for "10 to 15 seconds" in an attempt to stop it from crying. Thorpe placed the baby's body in a backpack, dropped the backpack out of a window of the house and discarded the backpack in a garbage can in the alley behind the house, Nerheim said.
"About an hour later, he returned to the garbage can and removed the backpack," Nerheim said. "He took it to a Dumpster where he noticed there was a garbage truck nearby. He waited for the garbage truck to come and empty the contents of that Dumpster into the garbage truck and then went to verify if the Dumpster was empty, which it was. And then he watched the garbage truck drive off. Video surveillance corroborates everything."
Authorities tracked down the driver of the garbage truck and were able to ascertain what part of the landfill the driver emptied the truck.
Authorities have been combing the landfill since late Thursday for the child's remains. Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said the search area has been reduced to a 30-yard-by-30-yard swath that may be as much as "eight feet deep" in some areas.
"The environment is harsh," Zion Police Chief Wayne Brooks said. "To say it's a needle in a haystack -- it's actually worse."
Police officials said Thorpe is the only person expected to be charged. Thorpe has been in custody since about 6 p.m. Wednesday
Thorpe's arrest ends a saga for the city that began Wednesday morning when the boy's mother reported the child and Thorpe missing from an apartment on the 2300 block of Galilee Avenue.
More than 50 police officers and two highly-trained search dogs spent Friday morning and afternoon searching through the Advanced Disposal landfill at 701 Green Bay Road in Zion.
"We're going to pull out all the stops and do everything humanly possible to keep that search going," Brooks said.
Filenko said there is no timetable for the search.
"It's a fluid site," he said. "Until we've exhausted every single effort, that's as long as it will go."
More than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement personnel helped in the initial search for the missing baby after a mutual aid call on Wednesday.
Police had asked residents near the apartment where the baby went missing to do a detailed search of their properties, particularly garbage and refuse containers. Garbage pickup in the area had been delayed a day.