As Azuradee France kept her five children living in squalor above, Detroit police say the body of her 3-year-old son lay dead in a basement freezer of their home.
Police discovered the toddler’s decomposing body last week and took his 31-year-old mother into custody. Now, France is behind bars, facing charges of first-degree child abuse, torture and concealing a death.
The dead child’s grandmother, Toni Haynes, identified her grandbaby as Chase Allen, she told The Detroit News. She said it’s still unknown the exact day he died.
Haynes said family members are now wondering how France maintained custody of Allen and her other five children despite repeated calls to Child Protection Services with concerns.
“I called CPS on her,” Haynes, who is also France’s mother, told the paper. “A lot of us called, and they’d come out and give her kids right back to her.”
Haynes said she first became suspicious when her daughter blamed a burn on Allen’s skin on him touching a bowl of hot noodles, so she called the agency. Nothing was done, however, despite several calls to officials and a personal visit to France’s home herself, she told The Detroit News.
A spokesperson for the agency that oversees Child Protective Services in Michigan told The Daily Beast that specifics about France and her children could not be released.
“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is deeply saddened to learn of the death of this child. We express our condolences to everyone who loved him,” said in a statement.
Detroit Police Chief James White called the incident “tragic” and the scene as “something that no one should have to see.”
“The other kids, just imagine what they must have gone through and what they must have endured being inside of that home,” White said in a press conference Friday near France’s home. “And yes, a child was decomposing and yes, [that] child was found in the freezer.”
Despite frustrations with the agency from family, White said a tip to Child Protective Services was what led police to France’s home last week. There, he says they attempted to interview the 31-year-old but she repeatedly tried to push officers away.
“When they talked to the occupant of the home they recognized that there was something not right about the conversation and the way this occupant was communicating with them,” White said.
A search of the house uncovered Allen’s body in a basement freezer, White said. France was taken into custody, while her other children were taken to a hospital for evaluation. The other children were then transferred to the care of Child Protective Services, said Police Capt. Kimberly Blackwell at the press conference.
While White says it remains unknown when Allen was placed in the freezer, court records list March 1 as the date tied to France’s charges.
The prosecutor’s office said France has pleaded not guilty and her next hearing will be on July 8.
A GoFundMe set up by Haynes is raising money to pay for Allen’s funeral, as well as clothing and other necessities for the surviving children. It had raised roughly $4,500 by Monday afternoon.
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