JERSEYVILLE, Ill. – An Illinois community was still in shock Thursday night, a week after police said a six-year-old Jersey County boy was starved to death.
Police charged his father, 42-year-old Michael Roberts, and stepmother, 42-year-old Georgena Roberts, with first-degree murder. The young boy lived with the couple, three siblings and two step-siblings on Ferguson Street.
Authorities said that the couple would not feed the kids as a form of punishment.
Many people came together to hold a candlelight vigil, mourning and paying their respects to the young boy’s life.
Several people among the crowd said they came together because it’s something they needed to do, even though they said they didn’t know the family or the little boy.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said organizer Amy Crane of Brighton. “Unfortunately, this child didn’t even exist to half of the people for the past two years until this tragedy happened.”
“There is nothing that anybody can do that could change what has happened to that child,” said Melodee Ruile, a vigil attendee. “Nothing will ever make it right.”
A woman wrote a poem and read it out loud, saying, “We are left to wonder what could’ve been done to save the life of such an innocent one.”
The impact of the unthinkable crime has been taking its emotional toll on the small and quiet community.
“I don’t understand how somebody could do that to an innocent child,” said Debbie Mangrum, who brought her two young grandsons. “It is sad and they’ll pay for it, they’ll have to repent themselves.”
Back at the house on Ferguson Street, people continue to leave balloons, teddy bears, candles, and notes of sympathy.
The surviving children are in protective custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
The husband and wife are in custody in Jersey County Jail on $500,000 bond each. Their next court appearance is scheduled for November 13.