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Mother of 5-year-old girl found dead had locked bedroom, rope in apartment weeks ago, police say

The child's grandmother reported concerning text messages from her daughter and said she last saw her granddaughter May 3 in a video text message.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Editor's note: This article includes disturbing details about a child's death that might be difficult for some people to read.

While conducting a welfare check this week related to a 5-year-old girl, Aurora Police officers found human remains in a plastic bag in a utility closet in the apartment of the child's mother, according to the arrest affidavit in the case.

Based on the appearance of the remains, which are believed to belong to 5-year-old Maha Li Hobbs, detectives conducted a search of a fireplace in the apartment and determined that it had recently been used, the affidavit says.

On Thursday, the girl's mother, Alexus Nelson,27, was arrested on suspicion of:

  • Child abuse resulting in death
  • Tampering with a deceased human body
  • Tampering with physical evidence

The child's grandmother, who lives in another state, called 911 around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and reported that her daughter had made "concerning statements" by text, according to the affidavit.

She said she was concerned about her granddaughter's safety. She reported that the last time she saw her granddaughter was May 3, when she received a text message video of her.

In one message, Nelson wrote to her mother, "My rent has gone up again so rehoming and I've been looking at fostering." When her mom asked her to clarify whether she was referring to a pet or her daughter, Nelson didn't respond, according to the affidavit.

Aurora Police officers responded to Nelson's apartment in the 1000 block of South Elkhart Way, and Nelson told them she had given her daughter up for adoption about "one month ago," according to the affidavit.

Nelson claimed it was a legal adoption and she did not want her mom to know where the child was, according to the document.

She also named a specific agency that she said she used to facilitate the adoption, but when police called that place, the executive director said she had never worked with Nelson or her daughter.

When confronted about that, Nelson said she did call the agency and they had provided resources.

She claimed to have emails confirming the adoption but said she deleted them. When the officers searched her phone, they didn't find any emails about adoption, even in her deleted items folders. The officer also noted there no photos of Nelson's daughter on her phone.

When asked where the adoption took place, she could only say "southwest Denver," the affidavit says.

While at the apartment, Nelson gave officers consent to search the apartment. One officer noticed that a room was completely empty and the carpet was extremely dirty with various stains of unknown origin. The officer also noted there were no children's items in the apartment.

Nelson was initially arrested on a charge of attempting to influence a public servant for allegedly lying about her daughter's adoption. The additional charges were added after the child's body was discovered.

Through a search warrant, detectives learned that Nelson had made the following two Google searches on May 2:

  • "Can you overdose from melatonin?"
  • "Can you overdose from Xanax?"

All family members said the last time they had heard from Maha was on May 3.

On May 5, a maintenance worker said he was in the apartment and saw that a bedroom door was locked and had a rope connecting that door to the bathroom door across the hall.

He said, according to an arrest affidavit from the Aurora Police Department (APD), that it looked as if someone was trying to keep someone locked in that bedroom. The worker also reported that he cut the rope but then heard Nelson yell him through a baby monitor to leave, so he left the apartment.

Nelson's next due in court on June 6.

The Arapahoe County Coroner's Office said on Friday that it will likely take weeks to scientifically identify the remains.

Credit: CBI
Alexus Nelson

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