New Orleans police have obtained a warrant to arrest a man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter in a Central Business District hotel room earlier this month.
Anfernee Devante Steele, 21, faces one count of second-degree murder and cruelty to a juvenile in the slaying of Jo’nyri Hawkins, police announced Thursday.
A law enforcement source said Hawkins’ mother had left the girl in Steele’s care at a hotel in the 500 block of Canal Street for a few hours and returned to find the child unresponsive and limp early Oct. 3. The mother called 911, and first responders pronounced her dead.
The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office later ruled that Hawkins had died from blunt force injuries, and the agency classified her case as a homicide, the source said.
Steele at one point allegedly claimed that Hawkins had a bad fall, according to the source. But the source said authorities concluded that the girl’s “severe bodily injuries” were not consistent with a fall and had resulted from physical abuse.
Police obtained a warrant to arrest Steele on Tuesday. He was at large as of Thursday afternoon.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life prison sentence. As of Thursday morning, Hawkins’ homicide was one of at least 151 that had been reported in New Orleans this year.
An obituary for the child says she is from Houma. Her survivors include her parents, Joseph Hawkins and Amari Charles; two siblings; and her grandparents.
Hawkins’ funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Beautiful Zion Baptist Church in Houma.
Anyone with information on Steele’s whereabouts can call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.
She was the youngest of three people killed Saturday in New Orleans