Cleveland Three-Year-Old Found Dead In Local Landfill; Police Zero In On 20-Year-Old Mom As Suspect

This story has been the lead story at every news station in my city for the past four days. Three-year-old Emilliano Terry was reported missing by his 20-year-old mother Camilia Terry. Her initial story was that she had taken two of her kids to the park (her 5-year-old and the 3-year-old) and while pushing one of the kids on the swing, her three-year-old disappeared.

The community rallied around her and volunteers began searching abandoned homes and along the train tracks. There were vigils and impassioned pleas from the community that whoever took Emilliano to please bring him back safe and sound.

But they later found Emilliano’s body at a local waste management station, his body stuffed in a garbage bag.

Investigators have now turned their attention to Camilia and have begun searching her home for evidence. A source inside the police station said she admitted that her son died and she didn’t know how it happened.

I don’t normally report about things like this because it’s too painful. Nobody wants to think about the fact that a 3-year-old, whose biggest concern should be learning his numbers and letters, is dead right now. It breaks my heart.

Reporters says that the father, 19-year-old Shawn Dotson, was not in the picture. In an interview with Fox8 News, he told the reporter that he had initially tried to be with his son, but that Camilia had pushed him away. He said he feels responsible for his son’s death (even though he didn’t even know they were still living in Cleveland – he thought they moved to North Carolina). He said, “If [Emilliano] had a dad, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”

It’s gut-wrenching. It’s a nightmare. It’s horrific.

Yet, it happened. I normally shy away from news like this because I don’t like stories about babies who were harmed, in any capacity. But in my classes, we’re being trained to spot child abuse and I can no longer push my head in the sand and pretend that every mother is willing and capable to provide love and care for their child. It’s not realistic.

I don’t want to demonize Camilia, mainly because we don’t know what happened yet. Police have arrested her, but she hasn’t been charged yet.

What I do know is this: She grew up in foster care, then aged out of the system. She had three children by the age of 20. The administrator for Children and Family Services said that they have been involved with three generations of her family. They are no stranger to caseworkers. Each of her children has a different father. From what we know so far, at least the fathers of her oldest two children are no longer around. There had been complaints about her parenting from the grandmothers of the children. Reports say in May of this year, Camilia went to Children and Family Services to say she needed help. She was pregnant then, and overwhelmed. Nowhere in the reports does it say they did anything to help her.

And so here we are.

I posted to our Facebook page yesterday and asked what can we possibly do to help ensure that ALL children have a loving home? I know it’s a huge order but finding babies wrapped in garbage bags can NOT happen. It’s not okay to accept that as part of life.

This case is a reminder as to why I do what I do. It’s a reminder why I went back to school. It’s a reminder that we all need community. We need each other. To get through those days when you’re crying in your one-bedroom apartment, babies crying right along side of you. When you cry in the mornings because you hate your job and you think about running away more often that you think of staying. When you take yet another beating at the hands of someone who claims he loves you. When you go to an office at Children and Family Services, saying you need help, but nothing happens.

We need each other. We need to look out for each other. If we can’t depend on anyone else, please let us say we can depend on each other. Mother to mother. We know what it’s like. We  know the stress and aggravation.

We are here. We can help.



  1. How terribly, terribly, tragically sad. I think you’re doing a tremendous job by going back to school to do good, and by creating a community to help young women. There’s not much more we can do.

  2. This literally brought tears to my eyes. Stories like these really make me avoid reading and watching the news because there is always some story about a child being hurt in some way and it’s depressing. I may not be able to offer much, but I offer a listening ear to those that I can and just let them know that everything will be alright.

  3. Thank you, this is the worst factor I’ve read