Grace Lynn Ross is the young Indiana girl who was found dead in a wooded area near her elementary school in New Carlisle on March 12. The 6-year-old’s body was recovered two hours after she was reported missing, according to a news release from the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutors are investigating her death as a homicide and have arrested a 14-year-old in connection to her killing. The teen’s name has not been released because as of this writing, prosecutors had not yet decided whether to charge the boy as an adult.
Police are asking anyone with information to call the homicide unit at 574-235-5009 or Crime Stoppers at 574-288-STOP.
Here’s what you need to know:
Grace Died by Asphyxiation, According to a Preliminary Autopsy Report
Grace was reported missing at 6:30 p.m. on March 12 “in the area of Chapman St. in New Carlisle,” according to the news release from the prosecutor’s office. New Carlisle is a small town located about 15 miles west of South Bend.
The news release, which Heavy received via email from the St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, explained Grace’s body was recovered about two hours later. Her body was found at approximately 8:25 p.m. “in a wooded area near Chapman.”
Heavy confirmed with the director of media relations for the prosecutor’s office, Jessica McBrier, that Grace was found near Chapman Drive, rather than “Street.” A Google Maps search shows Chapman Drive is located about half a mile from Olive Elementary School, where Grace was a student. Google Maps shows what appears to be a wooded area situated behind an apartment complex.
According to the prosecutor’s office, preliminary autopsy results showed Grace died by asphyxiation. Additional test results are still pending.
Grace Is Remembered as the ‘Brightest Flower in the Vase’
Grace was born on October 1, 2014, in South Bend. Her obituary on the Palmer Funeral Homes website lists a large family that is mourning the child’s death, including parents, her stepfather, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Grace’s family described her in the obituary as the “brightest flower in the vase” and wrote that she had the ability to “change your mood from bad to good and from good to great.” They said she was a “friendly, outgoing, kind, cheerful” little girl.
Family and friends held a candlelight vigil for Grace on March 14. Her grandmother, Kelli Howard, told WNDU-TV about how Grace loved to sit in her lap, cuddle and admire Howard’s jewelry. “I always told her that when her fingers got big enough to fit these rings that she could have them, and her hands never got to be past a baby’s hands,” Howard lamented. She also told ABC57, “I love her and I hope that she’s with family in heaven.”
Grace’s aunt, Nicole Ross, started a Facebook fundraiser to help Grace’s parents pay for the funeral. The campaign raised more than $29,000 in three days.
This past Friday evening, one of our fellow students in kindergarten, Grace Ross, died. We don’t know the details about what happened. Local police have arrested someone. Grace was a happy girl that was loved by her friends and was a friend to everyone she met. We will all miss Grace very much.
The Teenager Remains in Custody but Formal Charges Have Not Yet Been Filed
Officials announced on March 13 that a 14-year-old male suspect had been arrested in connection with Grace’s death.
Investigators have not shared any additional information that would suggest whether Grace was familiar with the teen nor have they shared a possible motive for her homicide. The news release from the prosecutor’s office also did not specify when the teen was arrested or how investigators connected him with Grace’s death.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the St. Joseph County Probate Court decided the teen would be kept behind bars for the time being. A hearing was scheduled for March 22. Formal charges had not been filed as of this writing.
The teen’s name has not been released because he has not been charged as an adult. Before determining whether to do so, the prosecutor’s office first has to review a preliminary inquiry prepared by the Juvenile Probation Department, as explained in the news release. Once that is complete, the prosecutor can file “a petition alleging delinquency” to ask the court to allow adult charges.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention details that in Indiana, the juvenile court may “waive jurisdiction” and allow the child’s case to move to adult court based on specific circumstances. The clauses relating to this case, based on the suspect’s age, include the following language:
In the case of a child who was at least 14 at the time of commission, the court may waive jurisdiction if it finds (1) probable cause to believe the child committed an act that is either “heinous or aggravated” or “part of a repetitive pattern of illegal acts”; (2) that the child is “beyond rehabilitation under the juvenile justice system”; and (3) that it is “in the best interests of the safety and welfare of the community” that the child be tried as an adult.
In the case of a child of at least 10 accused of murder or a child of at least 16 accused of involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, or any nondrug class A or B felony, the juvenile court “shall waive jurisdiction” if it makes the requisite probable cause finding, “unless it would be in the best interests of the child and of the safety and welfare of the community” for the court to deny the waiver.