Gina Pressley | 2 in custody in death of Oak Forest 3-year-old - KMSP-TV

2 in custody in death of 3-year-old Oak Forest girl

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OAK FOREST, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Neighbors of an Oak Forest woman, being questioned Friday by police in the death of a 3-year-old girl she was caring for, described her as a loving person and were adamant she would not have harmed the girl.

Police said they were questioning a relative of Gina Pressley, who neighbors said recently celebrated her third birthday, as well as a male friend of the woman. Police Chief Greg Anderson said police were investigating the girl's death as a homicide and would continue "until it's determined if it is (a murder) or isn't."

No charges had been filed as of late Friday night, but both the woman and man still were being questioned after being taken into custody Thursday, Anderson said.

Gina died late Tuesday due to head trauma, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office, which said the death remained under investigation as of Friday and no cause had been established.

Police said paramedics were called to a home in the 15300 block of Walnut Road for a girl who was choking. Paramedics found Gina unresponsive and transported her to Palos Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 11:30 p.m., police said.Annette Boyle, who said she knew well the woman being held by police, said the woman had taken custody of Gina when the baby was just a few months old. Boyle said her friend had been trying to adopt the little girl.

Anderson said the woman being questioned had custody of the girl since October 2010, but he was unsure whether an adoption had been completed.

"She was a great mom," Boyle said. "She took care of that little girl and did her darnedest to get custody."

A news release issued by police indicated the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had some sort of oversight role of the girl, but Anderson said he was unsure to what degree DCFS was involved.

Boyle said the girl's relative had been going through a divorce, and it was just within the last few months that she began to see someone new.

Neighbors said they didn't know the man's name and that he didn't converse with them.

Neighbors said they frequently saw Gina, and that her relative was constantly doting on the girl. One neighbor said that just a few days ago they went to Chuck E. Cheese's for her birthday. As they drove away, the little girl gleefully exclaimed, "I'm 3, I'm 3," the neighbor said.

One neighbor, Kim Santre, knew there had been police activity at the house directly across the street from her, and was overcome when told Friday of the girl's death.

"It just shocks me," she said, wiping at her eyes as she spoke. "She was a wonderful mother to that child. I am just so mortified that child died."

Santre and Boyle said the woman and her former husband had tried for some time to have a child, and that they couldn't imagine her harming the girl.

"They were a beautiful family," Santre said. "The girl was the most precious thing to see."

Oak Forest police and the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force are conducting a joint investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Oak Forest Police Department at (708) 687-1376, Anderson said.

"When you see a child lose their life, it affects everyone," Anderson said. "Not only the family, it affects the whole community. This is a horrific crime on the most innocent of victims."

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