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16 News Now Investigates: Answers for Asaiah

16 News Now Investigates the death of a South Bend baby boy who we first told you about back in February.
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - 16 News Now Investigates the death of a South Bend baby boy who we first told you about back in February.

Months later, there’s still no cause of death, despite an autopsy that listed numerous injuries. That’s why Tonya Rosenberger is seeking accountability for the death of her grandson, 6-month-old Asaiah Malik. She’s been putting up road signs to direct people to her Facebook group and change.org petition, where she shares the disturbing details of what happened to the infant.

In January, Asaiah was found unresponsive by his paternal grandmother lying face-down on the floor on top of some clothing, according to a postmortem report shared with us by Asaiah’s family. He was last seen alive while sleeping in bed with that grandmother and a sibling-- a red flag for any expert on infant sleep safety.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, for an infant to sleep safely they must follow the ABC’s-- be Alone, on their Backs, and in a Crib-- not a bed or a sofa.

But that is just the beginning of this grim tale told in black and white. There’s a lot of data to process from the autopsy, pages and pages that family members are combing through to try and find out why Asaiah’s life was cut short.

“Twenty-six pages just about his rib injuries. At least 23 fractures. They said very clearly ‘at least’. That’s just from what they sampled. I guess there was just so much that they quit.,” explains Tonya Rosenberger.

The anthropology report concludes most ribs had multiple injuries at multiple stages of healing and consistent with blunt force trauma. The post examination report refers to these injuries, as well as the head injuries, calling them highly concerning for non-accidental trauma. In fact, The post examination report says Asaiah’s injuries were consistent with non-accidental trauma, and blunt force trauma, including cranial trauma.

Despite the pages of documented evidence, Asaiah’s death has been ruled “undetermined.”

“Why is somebody not sitting in jail? How is it not a good arrest? These people in the very least that were responsible for him were there, they were neglectful,” Rosenberger says.

Though the autopsy was conducted at Western Michigan University, the coroner overseeing the case is St. Joseph County’s Dr. Patricia Jordan. We reached out to her to ask why the cause and manner of death could not be determined, but she told us she was “not at liberty to discuss the case” due to privacy reasons.

The St. Joseph Metro Homicide Unit has been leading the investigation into Asaiah’s January death. But months later, they say they have no new updates. When asked if this is being investigated as a homicide, Metro said " It is a death investigation. Determining the cause and manner of the death is the focus.”

Putting this family back at square one and feeling desperate for the community’s help.

“They need to know this happened here, they need to know it could’ve been your kid, your grandkid. And it’s unacceptable in every way. Its hurtful. It’s like insult to injury,” explains Asaiah’s maternal grandmother Tonya Rosenberger.

“We can’t even mourn or grieve him because we have to do this for him. I mean, how does he rest?”

With an autopsy that shows not just rib fractures, but contusions as well as bleeding consistent with severe head trauma… what or who would have caused those injuries?

Asaiah’s father Averius, had custody of him for the last month of his life. Sadly, Averius has a past arrest of domestic violence in May of 2020 for domestic battery on a pregnant person. That person was Asaiah’s mom while she was 8 months pregnant with Asaiah.

“It should be looked at because he was with him. It’s not a far fetch to me, you’re 8 months pregnant… how do you do that, you’re doing that to the baby as well,” asks Tonya Rosenberger.

And how often do families just like Asaiah’s lose their babies far too soon?

In the most recent report of child abuse & neglect fatalities in Indiana from 2016, 59 deaths were analyzed. Of those, 24 were homicides-- 17 happening to infants under one year in age.

But the Indiana Department of Child Services is only required to review child fatalities in children under the age of 3 if the child’s death is sudden, unexpected or unexplained, or there are allegations of abuse or neglect. We asked if the agency would be reviewing Asaiah’s passing, but were told they cannot comment on DCS involvement, past or present, with specific families.

With few answers from officials, Asaiah’s maternal grandmother is moving forward… pursuing “Justice for Asaiah”.

“I mean they can’t just not do anything about this. And that’s why we’re going public. I feel like if people know, they’re going to be outraged. It’s disgusting what happened and what’s still happening,” she says.

She wants everyone to know that baby Asaiah mattered.

“I really just hope he knows that I love him. He was loved. He was loved, no matter what the people that were responsible for him, whatever happened there, he was loved by a lot of people. I just hope that we can get him some justice. I really do. If we keep pushing, they can’t ignore us.”

Asaiah never got to celebrate his first birthday, and because of the pandemic, he never had a funeral. The family is asking the community to come out and celebrate Asaiah’s life while helping them to get answers about his passing.

They’re gathering for a Justice for Asaiah Walk on Friday, Nov. 12 outside of the Morris Performing Arts Center at 4:45 p.m. A balloon release will be held at 5:45 p.m. ahead of a walk at 6 pm. down Michigan Street, past the prosecutor’s office, courthouse and DCS office, ending back at the Morris.

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