Joshua Summeries was remembered in a prayer vigil outside his Zion home Thursday night, exactly one year since the 5-month-old boy was killed by his mother's boyfriend.
Demetrius Thorpe, 26, of Zion pleaded guilty last month to suffocating Joshua and placing his body into a large trash bin, which was emptied from a truck into a landfill. Lake County Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes is scheduled to sentence Thorpe on the first-degree murder conviction Sept. 2.
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Police, Zion residents and others banded together to search for Joshua after Thorpe initially reported he had been kidnapped Aug. 21, 2013.
At the small gathering Thursday that included Joshua's mother, Kisha Summeries, Pastor Mike McDowell of Christ Community Church in Zion said that, while the boy's death was tragic, he helped to bring hope in the community.
"In his short life, there are things we can be grateful for," McDowell said on a sidewalk on the 2300 block of Galilee Avenue, near candles and pictures placed by a tree in Joshua's memory. "One of the things I think of is, it brought our community together. Our community came out in large numbers, concerned and looking for the child.
"And our police officers and law enforcement -- not only in Zion, but in Lake County -- pulled together and did an amazing job in searching and spending the time in very difficult conditions to look for baby Joshua."
Community activist Clyde McLemore said he hopes Joshua never is forgotten, and he praised authorities who conducted a four-day, unsuccessful search for the boy's body in the Zion landfill. He said he hopes to organize a barbecue for children in Zion next year in an effort to bring out a bigger crowd to remember the 5-month-old boy.
Toward the end of the vigil, Joshua's mother said she just wants her child back. She then became overcome with emotion and was comforted by ordained evangelist Anthony Mull of Zion.
"God has a special place for that child," Mull told Summeries.
Before the gathering, Zion Police Chief Stephen Dumyahn said the unsuccessful hunt for Joshua's body in the landfill at Ninth Street and Green Bay Road continues to weigh on the participants.
"It's very tough," Dumyahn told the Daily Herald. "In my entire (28-year) career, this is the first homicide case I am aware of in Zion where the body was not recovered. This is very difficult for our department. Many of us, when we come to work, drive by that landfill on a daily basis.
"Matter of fact, I can tell you, from a personal standpoint, I have changed my route coming to work. I don't drive past the landfill every day because it is a very difficult thing."
Prosecutors said Thorpe placed a hand over Joshua's mouth to prevent him from crying on the morning of Aug. 21, 2013. He put the baby's body in a backpack, dropped it from a window and went down to discard it in a garbage can.
Thorpe then placed the backpack in the large trash bin just before it was emptied into a refuse truck, according to prosecutors who cite surveillance footage of the activity. The truck's contents were emptied at the landfill.
Scores of police officers, firefighters, cadaver dogs, FBI agents, U.S. marshals and volunteers from the Illinois and Wisconsin National Guard performed the four-day search for the backpack. They used rakes and bare hands hunting for the backpack amid medical and other hazardous waste.
"We did everything humanly possible to try to recover the child," Dumyahn said. "Not recovering the child took its toll."