AURORA, Colo. — Amid a search for a missing 5-year-old, a woman faces a charge of child abuse resulting in death after human remains were found in her Aurora apartment, police announced Thursday afternoon.
Alexus Tanielle Nelson, 27, was arrested on charges of attempting to influence a public servant on Tuesday. After a child's remains were found in a closet in her Aurora apartment late Wednesday, new charges were added, including child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with physical evidence.
During a press conference Thursday, Aurora Police Department (APD) Interim Chief Art Acevedo said there is a high probability Nelson will face a murder charge in the near future as well.
Acevedo said the department is "highly confident" the remains belong to missing 5-year-old Maha Li Hobbs.
Maha was reported missing from the Aurora area and was said to likely be with her mother, Nelson, on Tuesday. An investigation began that evening. Nelson was identified as Maha's primary caretaker and mother, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. An endangered missing alert was issued for Maha around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday and it was deactivated around noon Thursday.
The case began on Sunday, when Nelson's mother called police around 12:30 p.m. concerned that her granddaughter may have been put up for adoption. She said she was concerned for the girl's wellbeing. Aurora patrol officers went to Nelson's apartment complex, located at 1000 block of S. Elkhart Way. However, during that visit, police did not find any information that raised suspicions, Acevedo said.
On Tuesday around 1 p.m., the grandmother called again to ask for a welfare check for her granddaughter, Acevedo said. Officers responded to the apartment.
Nelson told police she gave her daughter up for adoption about one month prior, according to an arrest affidavit for Nelson obtained by Denver7 on Thursday. She said it was a legal adoption and she did not want her mother — the child's grandmother — to know where the child went, the document reads. She stated that she had used an adoption agency called Adoptions with Love. However, when an officer called the agency, the executive director said they had not had any involvement with Nelson or her child.
APD's Crimes Against Children Unit was called to the scene and its detectives spoke with Nelson. Nelson told them she did not have the resources to care for the child so she put her up for adoption, according to the affidavit. The detectives told her they had called Adoptions with Love and confirmed Nelson had not contacted the agency.
Nelson then changed her story, the affidavit reads, saying instead that the adoption agency had only provided her with resources. She claimed to have emails confirming details of the adoption, but had deleted the emails, according to the affidavit. She said she did not have any paperwork about the adoption. When asked where the adoption happened, she said somewhere in west Denver, according to the affidavit.
When asked, Nelson gave consent for detectives to go through her phone and look for those emails, but they were unable to find them. She also gave them permission to look through her photos. The detectives noted that she did not have any photos of the missing child on her phone, according to the affidavit.
Detectives also reached out to the child's father, who lives out of state. He said he had not seen the girl in about two years. The grandmother, who had previously called police, confirmed she had not seen the child since May 3.
Authorities also learned from a maintenance worker at Nelson's apartment complex that he had entered her apartment in early May for some work. He noticed the unit's second bedroom was locked and a piece of rope connected the door to the bathroom door directly across the hall, as if to keep someone locked in the bedroom, the affidavit reads. The man reported seeing children's toys, but did not hear anybody in the room.
Because Nelson had allegedly made misleading and false statements to the officers, she was arrested on a charge of attempting to influence a public servant around 9 p.m. Tuesday, according to an arrest affidavit.
Meanwhile, the police department's investigation into the missing girl continued. Aurora police confirmed on Wednesday that their crime lab and detectives were working around Nelson's residence.
Late Wednesday, detectives with APD's Crimes Against Children Unit located the remains of a child in Nelson's apartment. Because of the condition of the remains, they could not make a positive identification, Acevedo said.
Aurora police have not identified the remains as belonging to Maha as of Thursday afternoon. The Arapahoe County Coroner's Office will make that determination.
On Thursday, new charges were added against Nelson, including child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with physical evidence, police said.
Nelson appeared in Arapahoe County court on Thursday morning. The defense acknowledged the "very serious allegations" in her supplementary arrest affidavit, which had not been released as of Friday afternoon.
The judge said given the severity of the charges against Nelson, the court had concerns about her willingness to appear in court. The judge said if she is convicted of the charges against her, it would amount to a significant amount of time behind bars.
Nelson's bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety.
Nelson also agreed to a mandatory protection order, though due to technical difficulties, it's not clear whom it was for.