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Mother of child who died in DCFS foster home working to reopen homicide case

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PEORIA (HOI) -- For 23 years there has been someone missing from all of the May family portraits.

"He ate spaghetti and he was allergic to spaghetti sauce so that messed his bowels and that's how the abuse came about because they were angry that he kept pooping on himself," Lorraine Washington explained to Heart of Illinois ABC reporter Stephanie Rodriguez through tears.

Washington was just 24 when her five children were taken by the Department of Child and Family Services for alleged child abuse.

Washington said she had punished her oldest son from taking money from her and when he told a neighbor about the incident the police were called.

While attending parenting and anger management classes to get custody of her children, her 3-year-old son Donte May suddenly died.

"When I got to the room he was already dead. They hadn't pronounced him dead but he was already gone," she said remembering the day she was called to the hospital in June of 1997.

Her son was living with a foster family at the time, one that DCFS told Washington they planned to remove him and his brother from, though the little boy never made it back into her arms alive.

The corner's report showed May died of cerebral injuries from blunt trauma. A Peoria County judge later found May's foster mom Loreaca Ferguson, 29 at the time, to blame. But she was never indicted.

"[I told my husband] I think we need to talk to the foster mom and ask her what happened so we went down to the room where she was at and all she kept saying was, 'if he dies I'm going to jail'," Washington said. "When I found out she wasn't going to jail, that nobody was going to be charged, I didn't know what to do."

Prosecutors told her that Donte was in "too many adults hands at one time" making it hard to formally press charges.

Since her son's death, Washington has always believed that if the incident had happened in her own home the outcome would have different.

"If Donte would've died [with us] everybody in our house would've gone to jail. Somebody would've went to jail. Nobody would've walked free. So I don't understand," she said.

Peoria County State's Attorney said that since there was not enough evidence to try the case in 1997 that new evidence or information would need to be brought forth to reopen the case. Washington said she plans to work with private investigators to do just that.

Heart of Illinois ABC also reached out to Loreaca Ferguson for comment but did not receive a response.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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