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Police recover remains of 5-year-old Syracuse girl missing since January

Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile and Mayor Ben Walsh at a press conference Mar. 26, 2024
Scott Willis
Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile and Mayor Ben Walsh at a press conference Mar. 26, 2024

Syracuse police say the body of missing 5-year-old Nefertiti Harris has been found. Authorities acted on information provided in recent days by her mother as they began their investigation. Police allege 29-year-old Latasha Mott beat Nefertiti to death with a belt in January and disposed of the body. Police say the girl had not been seen for several months and recently was reported missing. Police Chief Joe Cecile says during the investigation it became clear that something more serious than a missing child was in play. He says they found her remains in a wooded area off Salt Springs Road Tuesday morning.

“It is still a very sobering conclusion to the sad and tragic event," Cecile said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "I want to say this too. Just when we see think we've seen everything, something like this comes along and just punches us in the gut, that punches everyone in this community in the gut.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh notes that there have been several crimes involving children that are difficult to put into words.

"I think part of it is because when you try to put yourself in a place to make sense of a mother killing her five year old daughter," Walsh said. "It brings you to a dark place that you don't ever want to be."

Mott has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in the first degree. But Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says charges could be upgraded to murder pending further investigation and results from the medical examiner's office. He says it does not appear Mott disposed of her daughter's body on her own. Fitzpatrick says his office is questioning Mott's boyfriend about his alleged involvement, but he's not cooperating.

Bob Beck, a veteran media professional, currently serves as a part-time editor/host at WAER Public Radio and an adjunct professor at Syracuse University. Beck retired as News Director at Wyoming Public Radio in 2022 after 34 years. During his time, Beck won 5 regional Edward R. Murrow awards and 5 Public Media Journalists Association awards for reporting. He also won 11 PMJA awards for the news and public affairs program Open Spaces. He was awarded the Wyoming School Bell award for education reporting and was part of two Emmy Award winning television productions. You can find him on X under the name @butterbob.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at