Boy, 9, found dead in Pennsylvania woods, murdered, authorities say

A boy found dead in Pennsylvania has been murdered, local authorities have confirmed.

Azuree Charles, nine, was found Wednesday in a wooded area near a home in New Kensington, Westmoreland County. On Thursday, the prosecutor confirmed that he had been murdered.

“I can reaffirm that this was a murder,” Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli told WTAE† “The child died at the hands of another person.”

Ms Ziccarelli said a person of interest in the case had been identified but did not provide other details, citing an ongoing investigation.

Azuree’s father, Jean Charles, was arrested on Wednesday, but allegedly on unrelated charges. According to an indictment, Mr Charles is accused of striking one of his children in the eye in November 2021. The charges do not identify the child.

At Thursday’s press conference, Ms Ziccarelli gave little information about the case. But when a reporter asked if the suspect was still at large, she told the public not to worry.

“Based on everything we know at this point in the study — again, at this point — we don’t believe there is any danger to the community in general,” she said.

The community of Azuree expressed their devastation at his death. On Wednesday, the local school district sent a letter to families offering grief counselors and other services.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that one of our elementary school students passed away suddenly sometime this morning before school,” wrote Dr. Chris Sefcheck, Superintendent of the New Kensington-Arnold School District. “A tragedy like this is not easy to accept, while causing many levels of grief in our close-knit community.”

The child’s aunt, Madorne Lemaime, remembered Azuree as a sweet and respectful child.

“He was the most friendly boy,” Mrs. Lemaime told TribLIVE† “When they were at the supermarket, he would run around saying ‘hello’ and asking if people wanted to be friends.”

She added that Azuree was recovering from health problems resulting from his premature birth, including several surgeries.

“He just got over all his health problems,” said the grieving aunt.

As the investigation progresses, police have asked the public to provide any information.

“This is a terrible tragedy for our community here in New Kensington and our county in general,” said Ms Ziccarelli. “If you have anything to say about Azuree’s life or death, please contact the New Kensington Police Department at 724-339-7533.”

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