In a shocking twist, the 9 year old boy found strangled behind his home 4 months ago was allegedly murdered by his own family.
On May 4, Azuree Charles, of New Kensington, was found naked and muddy, his body partially covered by lawn furniture and a foam cooler, according to an arrest report obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other outlets. The boy’s pajamas were hanging in nearby branches, according to the report.
Now, his father, Jean Charles, 40, is charged with murder, Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli announced at Wednesday press conference.
“This horrific tragedy has rocked the New Kensington community,” Ziccarelli said, adding, “The trauma that has affected us all pales in comparison to what Azuree no doubt experienced.”
In addition to murder, Charles is charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse, unlawful restraint of a minor by a parent, strangulation, concealing the death of a child and tampering with physical evidence, court records show.
Azuree’s mother, Luella Elien, is charged with aggravated assault of a victim less than 13 years old, child endangerment and hindering the apprehension or prosecution of another person.
Court records show Charles is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on no bond and Elien is being held on $250,000 bond.
Both suspects are scheduled to have preliminary hearings on Oct. 12. It was not immediately clear if either suspect had retained an attorney.
Azuree’s neighbors told CBS News back in May that the child had just beaten pediatric cancer. Neighbor Osie Taylor, who found Azuree’s body, told the outlet, “All he does is ride his bike and play with his sister and for something like this to happen to him, it’s unbelievable.”
According to the criminal complaint against Charles obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a boy who lives near Azuree’s home heard Azuree yell, “No, no, no, I’m sorry,” at about 2:30 a.m. on May 4, the day his body was discovered.
Neighborhood children told WPXI they often heard yelling from the boy’s home.
In May, community members came together for a vigil to honor Azuree’s life, WTAE reports.
“He was the nicest person I ever met. We like to ride our bikes and we would always play,” 9-year-old Azalynn Lookhart told the station.