Identity of West Frankfort 8-year-old found dead released - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Identity of West Frankfort 8-year-old found dead released

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Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin) Alexus N. Smothers (Source: Jennifer Gaskin)
Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.) Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin (Source: West Frankfort Police Dept.)
Crime tape surrounds a house at 1704 Oak Street. Crime tape surrounds a house at 1704 Oak Street.
WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) -

Police have released the name of the 8-year-old girl found dead at her home in West Frankfort.

West Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Tharp says Alexus N. Smothers was found dead Tuesday.

Smothers' mother, Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin, 28, is being held in connection with her 8-year-old daughter's death. 

According to West Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Tharp, Mary R. Zumwalt-Jophlin is in the Franklin County Jail on a charge of concealment of a death.

Jennifer Gaskin is Joplin's sister. She says just a few months ago Zumwalt-Jophlin and her kids lived at her home.

"If she would have lived with me the next four months this wouldn't have happened," Gaskin said.

West Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Tharp says they got a 911 call from Zumwalt -Jophlin around 2:30 a.m. He says officers then went looking for the 8 year old, first at her home at 1704 East Oak Street.  Tharp says officers found her dead in the basement.

Gaskin says she's shocked and will miss the little things about her niece.

"She's a precious little angel," Gaskin said. "She's so quite thought, in the same sense she was a go getter. She had the most beautiful smile, the laughter. I'm going to miss it so much."

Despite her sadness, Gaskin stopped by the West Frankfort Police Department to hopefully get some answers and speak to her sister.  At the time Zumwalt -Jophlin was in police custody.  

"Why, that's the question I was going to ask her," Gaskin said.

At the same time the child's grandfather also arrived at the police station. Both went inside with the member of the Child Death Investigation Task Force. They've been called in to help to figure out what happened to the child.

But no matter the outcome of the investigation, Gaskin is still without her 8-year-old niece.

"She didn't deserve it, she never deserved it," Gaskin said.

Jophlin has two other children. The Department of Children and Family Services is currently working with police on this case. A department spokesperson says today they started an investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect. He says the kids were taken from Zumwalt -Jophlin back in 2004. They returned home in 2005. DCFS says they have not had any contact since.

An autopsy got underway Wednesday morning in Bloomington, Illinois.

Tharp says the investigation is still ongoing and more charges are possible.

A fund has been established for at First Bank in West Frankfort to help pay for Alexus's funeral expenses.

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