MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee police on Thursday, Oct. 21 announced that missing 3-year-old Major Harris, the subject of an Amber Alert, was found dead near 35th and Rohr.
The investigation remains fluid and ongoing, Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said. Norman could not confirm how long Harris was at the location where his body was found – inside a container behind a home.
An autopsy will be performed Friday, Oct. 22, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed.
The Milwaukee Police Department canvassed neighborhoods on the city's north side in search of Harris that afternoon after receiving a new lead. Inspector Paul Formolo did not confirm what that lead was but said officers would be searching areas from Hadley to Meinecke and 33rd Street to Sherman Boulevard. Investigators planned to focus on not only yards but vacant homes and garages in the area. Harris' body was not found in that search area.
Major Harris; police scene near 35th and Rohr
Thursday's search was the most recent in a series of searches from Milwaukee to Germantown to Dodge County that unfolded in the days after the Amber Alert was first issued Saturday, Oct. 16. Norman said the Amber Alert went out as soon as the department learned a child was missing.
On Monday, Oct. 18, police found a vehicle of interest in the Amber Alert. It was parked outside of a Milwaukee laundromat near Sherman and Villard. Police said the vehicle was found as part of a multi-jurisdictional search. Unidentified blood was found inside.
Police presence near Sherman and Villard, Milwaukee
Boy's mother dead
Harris was the son of a homicide victim, 25-year-old Mallery Muenzenberger of Onalaska, who was found dead near 37th and Clarke on Thursday, Oct. 14. One week later and roughly three miles away, her son was found dead.
"We’re incredibly sad, heartbroken. We had so much faith that Major would be coming home to us," said Lori Hines, Muenzenberger's aunt. "He’s with his mom now, and our faith will carry us through."
Mallery Muezenberger (photo provided by family)
Jaheem Clark, 20, a person of interest in that homicide, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound near 31st and Custer after police responded to a home on Sunday afternoon. Authorities have since arrested several people, but no charges have been filed.
Muenzenberger's family in the La Crosse area said they did not know about Clark. They hope victims of domestic violence find help.
"If anybody is in this situation, they ask for help. We had no idea. We had no idea. I can’t imagine this type of violence. I can’t imagine," Hines said.
Muenzenberger's family is grateful that a community far from home did everything it could to help.
"We’re very thankful for everything that everyone tried to do to bring Major home," Hines said.
Carlton Harris Jr.
Carlton Harris Jr., Major's father, joined search efforts after arriving from West Virginia. Harris described his son as "happy, energetic, always smiling." On Thursday, he walked past crime tape to learn his son was found dead.
Once the tape came down, community members gathered where the boy's body was found to both pray and discuss how to keep it from happening again.
"Anything involving our children, especially, it’s going to be emotional, and we’re going to take that to heart," said Dante Jordan, community activist. "We have to do a lot better job in protecting."
Community leaders respond
FOX6 News on Thursday heard praise for the Milwaukee Police Department and for the volunteers who went searching for Harris. Elected leaders say it is time to take a stand against domestic violence.
"Our community is suffering. Too many times, this has happened, and it's just a terrible situation," Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper said.
City leaders, including the head of the Office of Violence Prevention, offered condolences to the families.
"There should never be an instance where a 3-year-old, or any child, is harmed, and particularly in this kind of situation," said Arnitta Holliman, the office's director.
State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) told FOX, as a mother following the story, she could not imagine the heartbreak of losing a child.
"I have a 22-year-old son, and to learn this about a 3-year-old would devastate me. To learn it about a 22-year-old, that's my son, would devastate me," Taylor said.
Taylor joined other elected leaders Thursday, calling for an end to domestic violence.
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas
On behalf of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of three-year-old Major Harris, whose body was recovered today. This tragedy hits at our entire community as the body of Major’s mother, Mallery Muenzenberger, was recovered one week ago.
The violence plaguing our community is having a traumatic effect on the entire Milwaukee community. It is affecting daily life in every neighborhood. This moment is not the time to speak to the issues that have caused this record violence in our community. This moment is the time to show compassion and concern for all families in our county who have suffered loss and those living with the pain of missing a loved one. I commend all those who responded to the call of helping to find Major and convey my deepest
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley
My heart goes out to the family as they try to grapple with this tragic loss. All Milwaukee mourns for Major Harris. Enough is enough, we must band together to stop these senseless acts of violence from destroying lives and our community.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
"I share the sadness people throughout Milwaukee feel with the death of Major Harris, and I offer condolences to his family. Thank you to the police, other city officials, and citizens who have worked to find Major. Our prayers for justice and peace continue."
State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee)
This is absolutely devastating news. As a parent, I am at a loss. I am thankful for the work of everyone who helped search for Major. My heartfelt condolences to his family and those who loved both he and his mother.
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson
My heart instantly broke as I learned of the discovery this afternoon of the body of missing three-year-old Major Harris. Despite a large-scale search for Major by volunteer searchers and Milwaukee Police officers, our worst fear has come to fruition.
My prayers go to the loved ones of Major and his mother, Mallery Muenzenberger, who was shot to death and found in a backyard on October 14th.
No family and no community should go through such terrible trauma and heartbreak. As a community we must continue to show our support for the loved ones most affected by this entire senseless tragedy. I’ve had a pit in my stomach and my heart has been heavy since Major was taken. It is a feeling that no parent, no grandparent, no member of our community should feel — especially as it relates to the safety of our children.
Let me be clear: We should not be burying children because of violence. Period.
I want to thank all of the community organizations and volunteers (including MPD officers) who stepped forward and searched for Major. Your true selflessness and love shown through in your actions to try to find Major, and the entire city thanks you.
Muenzenberger family statement
On Thursday, before Harris' body was found, the family of Muenzenberger released a statement on Thursday, Oct. 21. It reads as follows:
"On behalf of the family of Mallery Muenzenberger and Major Harris, we want to extend our many thanks to the Milwaukee community volunteers and the Milwaukee Police Department for all of your diligence in searching for Major. It has truly been a helpless feeling for all of us that have not been able to assist in the search for Major due to having to prepare for Mallery’s funeral.
"We are heartbroken as we prepare to say our final goodbyes to Mallery who was taken from us in such a violent fashion. Mallery was a beautiful kind soul who loved her little boy with all of her heart. She raised him as a single mother, working 2 jobs at times trying to provide for him. Her early aspirations were to become a nurse, and she would have made a very caring one! Mallery became involved in a life she never shared with our family. She was much too private. She was an honest person with too much trust we have found out. As we have been searching through her belonging’s we came across her high school senior project. How ironic that the topic she chose to present was Domestic Violence Awareness. Mallery faced her death in the hands of domestic violence in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"Mallery was raised in a family unit based on their strong faith. She attended bible studies, bible camps, weekly church services and daily prayer. Her son was her life – her joy – her purpose- her future. She loved her family. As we look through the pictures of her growing up, we continually see her contagious, sweet smile. You couldn’t help but be drawn to her lovable personality. She had a quiet, innocence about her. She never had to be the center of attention, more than likely she was the one smirking in the corner of the room with that devious look of hers.
"Mallery’s life will not be forgotten. We will never let her memory go. We will continue to search for her beautiful baby boy, Major and bring him home to Lacrosse, to the family that loves and cares for him. Major has been a part of Mallery’s family since his birth and his missing has left an incredible void in our lives.
"We will always approach the month of October with a new appreciation and awareness on her behalf. We ask that all of us keep the victims of domestic violence in your hearts, and say a prayer that their souls rest in peace.
"As we transition our focus of putting Mallery to rest, we will never rest until we locate Major. We are desperate for any information regarding his whereabouts. If you have any information please contact the Milwaukee Police Department, and bring Major home. #majorstrong"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.