Azuree Charles was a 9-year-old boy who was murdered on May 4, 2022 in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother, Luella Elien, and father, Jean Charles, were arrested on September 21, 2022.
Charles was a big brother to Sapphire, Lily, and Allura, according to his obituary. The obituary describes him as “a beloved child gone too soon” who died “tragically and unexpectedly.” He is said to be the “beloved son of Luella Elien” but does not name his father.
The obituary said the boy “couldn’t go without a slice of pizza,” loved riding his bike, and playing with toy cars, especially Teslas.
Jean Charles, 40, of Brackenridge, faces charges of manslaughter, first-degree murder, molesting a corpse, unlawfully restraining a minor by a parent, strangulation, concealing the death of a child and tampering with physical evidence, according to the sheet filed in his case. Charles was arrested by the New Kensington Police Department in Westmoreland County and indicted on his charges before District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr., who denied bail in his case on the murder charge, court documents show. Charles is in the Westmoreland County Jail.
The charges brought against Elien, 29, of New Kensington, relate to an incident that took place on November 16, 2021. According to court documents, she was charged with aggravated assault on a person under the age of 18, endangering the welfare of children and obstructing arrest or prosecution. Her bail is set at $50,000.
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Members of the New Kensington Community, including Azuree’s young friends, gathered for a vigil Thursday night to honor the 9-year-old boy’s short life. Many of the elementary school students shared their memories of playing with Azuree outside with WTAE.
“He was the nicest person I’ve ever met. We like to ride bikes and would always play,” 9-year-old Azalynn Lookhart told WTAE.
Michele Arce, another community member, told WTAE that explaining death to young children is heartbreaking.
“When you have kids, it’s just heartbreak,” Arce told WTAE. “Then having to wait for our kids to get off the bus home and have to see all the warning tape and explain what happened is heartbreaking.”
Brittany Bush, who organized the event, told WTAE that she wants to see justice done. Bush told the news agency she organized the event because the community and their children needed to come together to grieve so they could process the tragedy.
“We just had to do this for these kids out here. It’s sad, at a moment like this, everyone needs to come together,” Bush told the news channel. “I want justice for him, whoever did this I hope they get whatever comes to them.”
Osie Taylor, a 70-year-old neighbor, found the boy’s body after he failed to show up at the bus stop, according to the WPXI. The body was found under a lounge chair in a wooded area near Azuree’s home.
“I knew something was wrong because my lawn chair was out of place,” Taylor told the Tribune-Review.
Taylor told the outlet that when the boy was reported missing Tuesday night, he offered to help police locate him because he knew the areas where the neighborhood kids often played. The boy was found clothed, Taylor told the Tribune-Review, but he was not wearing shoes or socks.
Ziccarelli gave some details about the case in a press conference. She said investigators were dispatched at 6:18 a.m. Wednesday. She added that investigators are determined to declare the case fair.
“For our community at large, keep your kids close,” she said. “They are our most precious gifts. We will not rest until we determine what or who caused this child’s death.”
His obituary says:
Neighbors told local news outlets that Azuree was a childhood cancer survivor. WPXI reported last year that Azuree “beats cancer”. Neighbor Osie Taylor told Trib Live he didn’t know the details of the boy’s illness but did know he had been ill and had to endure a lot of surgeries.
KDKA reported that Azuree “enjoyed a second chance at life.”
“He just rides his bike and plays with his sister and it’s incredible that something like this could happen to him. It has to stop whatever’s going on,” Taylor told KDKA.
Azuree’s death has left his neighbors in grief and shock, they told local news outlets. Neighbor Gina Pace told WPXI she often saw the boy play outside.
“You never thought he was playing so happily out here, you never knew that little boy was lying up there fighting for his life to come back so full of life,” Pace told WPXI.
Pace told Trib Live Azuree is handsome and smart.
“This is a serious tragedy and it hits our homeland,” Pace told the newspaper. “We know this boy. He was in a very good mood. He was a handsome, smart little fellow.”
Brittney Sneed, another neighbor and mother of three, told Trib Live she was concerned for her children’s safety.
“We don’t know what happened,” she told the newspaper. “We have children; I dont know what to think.”
She told the newspaper Azuree sometimes plays with her children.
“I’m worried. I think we should all be worried,” she told the newspaper. “He’s a kid and the way he was found it was just scary.”
Azuree was the oldest in a family of four, Taylor told Trib Live. He has four younger sisters who are being raised by their mother in the condominium, Taylor told the newspaper.
“He was a very gentle, nice boy,” Taylor told the newspaper. “He was laughing all the time and playing with his sisters all the time. He was a very, very nice kid, always well brought up. He got on well with everyone.”
Taylor told Trib Live he has lived at East Ken Manor for 10 years and knows Azuree’s mother. He said the mother often spends time with her children and appears to be a caring mother.