Zion Staples, a 10-year-old boy discovered de*ad and stuffed in a trash can inside his mother’s Illinois garage, died from a gu*nshot wound, according to a county coroner.
The statement was issued by Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson on Friday, roughly three weeks after police arrested Zion’s mother, Sushi Staples, and charged her with multiple felony counts including obstructing justice, failing to report the death of a child under the age of 13, and concealment of death.
The boy’s death was deemed “suspicious” in an initial autopsy report, but no one has been charged.
Police opened a garbage can found inside Staples’ garage after going to the family’s home in July to conduct a welfare check requested by a neighbour. Officers arrested her after discovering the child’s body inside. He appeared to have been inside the cannister for at least eight months, according to law enforcement. The child died in December, according to police. Gustafson told Law&Crime on Monday that he agrees with the assessment that the boy died at some point that month.
Staples, 37, told police she had “no son at all” when she was arrested, according to ABC affiliate WQAD. She also allegedly stated that the boy’s birth certificate was a forgery.
She is still being held in jail with a bond of $500,000. The case is still being investigated.
According to ABC affiliate KWQC, at least one welfare check was requested to the home after a neighbour became concerned about an allegedly bizarre remark Staples made about her son not being present for Christmas.
Heather Tarczan, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, described Zion’s death as a “profound tragedy” in an email to Law&Crime on August 4.
“When DCFS receives concerns about a child’s welfare that do not meet our statutory purview for an investigation, we refer the reporter of that case to local law enforcement,” said Tarczan. “In this case, when an anonymous reporter called the DCFS hot line in July 2023 and requested a well-being check on a child, that caller was informed of our agency’s capabilities and encouraged to report their concerns to local law enforcement.” The DCFS hot line worker also made a direct call to law enforcement to ensure that a report was filed out of genuine concern and based on what the caller reported.”
Staples’ next appearance in court in Illinois is scheduled for Tuesday.
According to Gustafson, when someone dies in potentially criminal circumstances in Illinois, two investigations can take place: one by the police and one by the coroner’s office. Gustafson stated that once the coroner has finished examining the body and the police have finished investigating the crime scene, both sides will come together to “find the truth.”
He stated that the final autopsy report had not yet been completed. Neither of them have a toxicology report. He added that such a report could take up to three months to complete.
It is unclear whether Staples has hired an attorney or a public defender.