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SPD continues to investigate death of 5-year-old Nefertiti Harris

The Syracuse Police Department sign covered in snow on March 14, 2023.
Ava Pukatch
The Syracuse Police Department sign covered in snow on March 14, 2023.

Syracuse Police are continuing to investigate the death of a 5-year-old child who died in January.

On March 23, the Syracuse Police Department was called out for a suspected missing person case, the response quickly changed after it was determined that 5-year-old Nefertiti Harris had died.

Police allege Nefertiti’s mother, 29-year-old Latasha Mott beat her to death and disposed of the body back in January. A search for Nefertiti’s remains concluded with a discovery on Tuesday. Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile said the discovery brings little solace.

“The thought that continues to haunt me on this one, after 40 years of being on the job, is that this little girl likely went to her grave thinking that she was the problem, that it was her fault, that she deserved this, that she was a bad child and this is what happens to bad children, that this was how it was supposed to be,” Cecile said.

The Onondaga County Medical Examiner released preliminary autopsy results Wednesday, showing that Neffy was beaten to death.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said a root-cause analysis will be done to understand the full circumstances of Nefertiti’s death. He said law enforcement officials are handling the case with the utmost care.

“There are a group of Syracuse police officers, some of whom are combat veterans who have tears in their eyes about two miles from here and treated this little girl in death better than she was ever treated in life,” Fitzpatrick said.

Mott, Nefertiti’s mother, is charged with manslaughter in the first degree, a class B felony. Fitzpatrick said that it is “very possible” those charges could be upgraded.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the case highlights a number of systemic issues.

“When we talk about the level of poverty in this city, when we talk about the level of addiction in this community, the level of mental health issues, this is how it manifests itself,” Walsh said “I think oftentimes people lose sight of what that actually mean in people’s lives – it’s chaos.”

Walsh says while the issues are not unique to Syracuse, it is the responsibility of community caregivers to do their jobs right – regardless of circumstances.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.