An autopsy has been unable to determine how 2-year-old Jhornee Bland died, and authorities have released her babysitter from jail as the investigation continues, officials said Thursday.
The toddler, who was reported missing on Sunday night, was found Monday in a field in the 1900 block of North Hydraulic.
“It’s a very sensitive case,” Wichita Deputy Police Chief Hassan Ramzah said Thursday. “It touches the heart of the community.”
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Jhornee had been in the care of 25-year-old Tyerria Miles since May 4, Ramzah said, and she had been with other children at a birthday party Saturday at a local motel. Many people at the party, including Jhornee, spent the night at the motel.
Investigators now think Jhornee died sometime between 1 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. Sunday, Ramzah said. The babysitter put Jhornee’s body in her vehicle and placed it in the wheat field at about 10 p.m. Sunday, prior to picking up the child’s birth mother, he said.
Jhornee’s mother, Jackquailine Hardin, called Miles late Sunday to check on her child and talk to her, Ramzah said. Miles told Hardin that she had taken the child to an acquaintance of Hardin’s at an apartment complex at Oliver and 31st Street South.
They went to the complex together. When Hardin could not find her daughter, she called 911. Officers arrived and learned that where Jhornee was reportedly located was a vacant apartment. They notified the Exploited and Missing Child Unit, which joined the investigation.
After consulting with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, police officials “agreed the circumstances did not meet criteria” for issuing an Amber Alert, Ramzah said. The first of those criteria is evidence that an abduction has occurred.
Officers worked through the night, looking for the girl and conducting interviews, he said. Information eventually provided by Miles led investigators to the field where Jhornee’s body was found shortly after 2 p.m. Monday.
Miles was arrested Monday afternoon and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and stolen property. She was held on a $100,000 bond.
A preliminary autopsy conducted Tuesday showed Jhornee had “no trauma to her body that would have caused her death,” Ramzah said.
Miles was released from jail Thursday morning.
“No charges will be filed until all the testing is completed and the final autopsy report has been concluded,” Ramzah said.
Investigators have no timetable for when those results will be available, he said.
“We recognize that this is a tragedy,” Ramzah said. “Any time you have a death, particularly a death of a child, it reaches the heart of the community as well as the families involved.
“It’s important for us to do a thorough investigation as we look into the circumstances of this case.”