Authorities found the remains of a little girl in a plastic trash bag at the Ensley home where a woman told police she last saw her 2-year-old. Lasonda Smith, who has been charged with child abuse, told police she traded Keteria Blackburn for crack. Officials have been looking for Keteria since her paternal grandmother reported her missing in February. Ms. Smith told investigators last month that the child was taken from her at the Ensley home, according to her lawyer. Jefferson County sheriff's investigators had been to the house since then and spoken to the man living there. But deputies didn't search the five-room house because they couldn't get a search warrant, Sheriff Mike Hale told The Birmingham News on Thursday.
Keteria's uncle, Ronald Smith, said the Sheriff's Department "didn't put forth a good effort" to find Keteria.
"This has been a bad pill to swallow here," he said. Authorities would not confirm the remains were Keteria's and planned DNA tests. A pink sweater in the bag matched Keteria's last outfit, however, according to authorities.
An autopsy was to be done today, but Chief Deputy Coroner Jay Glass could not say how long a positive identification might take. The cause of death is unknown and police said they are investigating it as a homicide.
Ms. Smith was located on June 8 and a court affidavit shows that she told police she was in a crack house when she traded the girl for drugs. She said she couldn't remember who she gave the girl to because she was high.
She told police that the girl was gone when she returned. She waited two hours before catching a ride to the Bessemer area, according to testimony this week during her preliminary hearing on the child abuse charge.
Freddie Powell, who lives in the house, talked to police Thursday morning.
Powell has not been charged. "I don't know the girl," Powell told the News while sitting on his porch. "I don't know anything. I'm tired and I just want to get some rest."
Capt. Jennifer Kilburn said Ms. Smith gave three or four different stories of Keteria's disappearance. Hale said investigators have been pursuing leads that the child had been taken from the area. But this week Nathaniel Barnes Jr., a minister, said he told police about an odor emanating from the home. Barnes said a man he knew came to his home Wednesday, saying he knew about the missing girl. "He said the house was extremely hot and had a foul odor like burning flesh or a dead human being," Barnes said. Barnes would not name the man. Glenda Bailey, who has relatives living next to the home, said they smelled a foul odor for about three weeks. "The police should have been checking it out all the time," Ms. Bailey said. Powell allowed investigators into the home early Thursday. The home reeked of human waste in buckets.
The remains were in a bag stashed in a box underneath clothing and other materials in a closet.
Thursday was not the first time police have been to the house for a death investigation. Last year, two men were killed during a robbery at the home.
"This is a crack house. This is what happens at crack houses," said Birmingham homicide Lt. Jim Sims.