Aurora police investigating the disappearance of 5-year-old Maha Li Hobbs have concluded that her mother kept her in a closed room, and then tried to keep police from finding out about her death by lying about an adoption and burning her child’s remains, according to court documents.
The police found charred remains in a plastic bag within a large shopping bag in a utility closet last week in the mother’s apartment at 1056 S. Elkhart Way, an 18th Judicial District affidavit states. Arapahoe County Coroner investigators on Tuesday had not identified the remains, but Aurora’s interim Police Chief Art Acevedo has said he is “highly confident” they will match to Maha Li.
Maha Li’s mother Alexus Nelson, 27, was being held in the Arapahoe County Detention Center on Tuesday with no option to bond out, court authorities said. She was arrested on May 30 on charges of making false statements and now also faces charges of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and tampering with a dead body.
During a search of Nelson’s apartment last Wednesday, “the charred remains of her daughter were found hidden in a closet next to toys,” the affidavit states. “Based on the state of the remains, as well as fragments found in the fireplace, it is apparent that Alexus attempted to destroy the remains by burning them.”
Police initially were alerted to the case when Maha Li’s grandmother telephoned and requested that police conduct a welfare check, mentioning that Nelson had talked of “rehoming” her child.
And Nelson had made calls to relatives via Facetime on May 3 where she directed Maha Li to say goodbye — the last time family members saw the child alive, the affidavit says.
The grandmother told police she and Nelson communicated via text and that on May 25 Nelson sent a message saying “my rent has gone up again so rehoming” and that “I’ve been looking at fostering,” the affidavit says.
Back when Maha Li was born, the grandmother told police, a text message from Nelson said “you would have known about her grand entrance sooner but my original plan was to have her adopted by a family more suitable to provide for her without struggling, though I still believe open adoption is the best move for her to never need for anything, and myself so I may finish school, have a career with benefits, and my family nearby before starting a family, she’s here and un-give-up-able. So meet your first grandbaby!”
When police during the welfare check on May 30 asked Nelson about efforts to find a different home for her child, she told them she had given her up for adoption and mentioned the agency Adoptions with Love, the affidavit says. But police were unable to find records of efforts to place the child for adoption — and made the arrest.
Later, the police learned from an apartment complex maintenance worker that, during an inspection on May 5, he found a room locked with a cord connecting it to another door and saw toys, the affidavit said. When he tried to enter the room after cutting the cord, Nelson told him to leave, and he did, it said.
The police obtained a search warrant for Nelson’s phone, which they’d seized as evidence, and found records showing two Google searches on May 2: “Can you overdose from melatonin?” and “Can you overdose from Xanax?” according to an affidavit. They also found a video that appears to show Maha Li saying goodbye to family members.
During the search on May 31, the affidavit says, police determined that the fireplace appeared to have been used recently based on burnt matter. “While searching through this matter, detectives found bone fragments as well as a bone that appeared to be either a rib or shoulder blade.”
Maha Li’s father told police he hadn’t seen his daughter for about two and half years because Nelson cut off contact.
Maha Li’s grandfather told police that he often tried to contact Nelson to no avail. He told them that, during a recent call, Nelson seemed to be directing Maha Li on what to say: ” ‘Tell grand-dad hi…. Tell him you love him…..Tell him bye.’ ”
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