NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: A four-year-old child was sexually assaulted and beaten up until her spleen ruptured after her mother allegedly left her with her boyfriend to attend a party. Jo’nyri Hawkins, who died after succumbing to her injuries earlier in October, had been allegedly assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, Anfernee Devante Steele, 21. Newly released court documents, obtained by the New Orleans Advocate and Times-Picayune, revealed the extent of the child’s injuries.
As per the autopsy results, Jo’nyri had been found inside a hotel room in New Orleans, Louisiana, and she died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen. She had also suffered ‘massive internal bleeding’. The court documents state that she also had signs of brutal and extreme physical abuse. She had a healed rib fracture, bruising, human bite marks, scars and “vaginal trauma consistent with having an object being inserted… similar to a finger”. According to a forensic pathologist, her spleen and liver were also ruptured which could have been from a forceful kick or punch.
The New Orleans Police Department had issued a press release on October 15 and announced that Steele is wanted in connection with a homicide on October 3. The police are currently on the lookout for Steele as he has been accused of physically and sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s daughter to death in a hotel. The release has also stated that Steele was “positively identified as the perpetrator” of the incident on the 500 block of Canal Street. He faces one count of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree cruelty to juveniles. A law enforcement source spoke to The Times-Picayune and said that the child had been with Steele at the hotel for many hours while her mother was out.
When the mother returned to the hotel, she found her daughter unresponsive and called 911. First responders pronounced Jo’nyri dead at the scene with the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office ruling her death as a homicide. Steele claimed that Jo’nyri had fallen down but local authorities said that she had “severe bodily injuries” from physical abuse. An obituary revealed that she was buried at the Zion Baptist Church in Houma and is survived by her parents, two siblings, and grandparents. On Tuesday, October 20, the police obtained an arrest warrant for Steele.
Many social media users took to Facebook to comment on the news of her death in outrage. One such user had shared, “Yes evil is out there Moms you can not leave your children especially not to party This was a beautiful little girl with the face of an angel May she Rest In Peace.” Another commented, “It’s just so heartbreaking that these beautiful, innocent children endure this kind of abuse, they simply cannot defend themselves against these monsters and in this case her very own mother is guilty as well.” Yet another shared, “What a beautiful child. This is horrifying. I hope that justice is served and they are tormented with guilt for the rest of their days here. Rest easy in the loving arms of Jesus, baby.”
Anyone with information on Steele’s whereabouts and the crime is urged to contact the homicide detective Barrett Morton at 504-658-5300 or leave an anonymous tip with Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111 or 877-903-STOP.