Prosecutor: 6-year-old boy punished with cold shower before death

  • Jeremiah Perry, 20, of North Chicago

    Jeremiah Perry, 20, of North Chicago

  • Damari Perry

    Damari Perry

Updated 1/10/2022 5:59 AM

In a case with tragic similarities to that of AJ Freund, a Lake County prosecutor said Sunday that a 6-year-old boy was forced into cold water for an extended period of time as punishment before he died.

The body of Damari Perry of North Chicago was found Saturday in Gary, Indiana, three days after his family reported him missing, launching a search by police and the FBI.


His older brother, Jeremiah R. Perry, 20, appeared in court Sunday, when a judge ordered him held on $3 million bail on charges aggravated battery causing great bodily harm to a child under 12, concealing a homicidal death and obstructing justice.

Also charged are Damari's mother, 38-year-old Jannie M. Perry, who faces charges of first-degree murder, concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice; and another sibling, who is charged in Lake County juvenile court. Neither appeared in court Sunday.

Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Kyle Doyle said Jannie Perry told relatives Dec. 30 that Damari needed to be punished, and family members put him into cold water in the tub/shower for an extended period of time.

Damari, she said, then began vomiting and stopped responding, according to Doyle. The child was removed from the water but no first responders were called, Doyle said.

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Doyle said Jannie Perry and Jeremiah Perry took the boy's body to Indiana and abandoned it.

On Jan. 5, the family reported Damari missing, prompting a search by North Chicago authorities and the FBI.

However, authorities said investigators discovered contradictory evidence and shifted attention to the boy's North Chicago home before finding Damari's body Saturday.

North Chicago Police Chief Lazaro Perez said Damari's body was found near an abandoned house in the 700 block of Van Buren Street in Gary.

Lake County Assistant Public Defender Divina Ayala asked for a $20,000 bond, citing Jeremiah Perry's minimal criminal history, with one prior conviction for possession of a weapon without identification. She said he does not appear to be a flight risk or pose a significant danger to the community.

Perry is scheduled to return to court Tuesday.

Prosecutors said additional charges may be filed as the investigation continues and an autopsy is completed next week in Indiana.

AJ Freund, 5, died in April 2019 after he was forced to take a cold shower and beaten as a punishment in his Crystal Lake home, authorities said. His parents reported him missing three days later, authorities said, but later admitted to wrapping him in plastic after his death and burying him in a shallow grave in a field near Woodstock.

Father Andrew Freund pleaded guilty to murder in September 2020 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Mother JoAnn Cunningham pleaded guilty to murder in July 2020 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

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