Mother in court over children's neglect deaths

Ebyan Farah

Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Two children who were locked inside a closet apparently suffocated. Police believe being trapped in a small, confined space led to the deaths of the three- and five-year-olds. Eyewitness News reporter Jeremy Brilliant with a look inside a closet similar to the one where the children were found.

Ebyan Farah made a brief court appearance Wednesday morning, but prosecutors requested extra time to work on their case. The 28-year-old mother faces preliminary neglect charges in the deaths of two of her children.

"We're working through our investigation, obtaining additional evidence so we can determine what the appropriate charges will be," said Deputy Prosecutor David Wyser.

Three-year-old Zakariyah and five-year-old Zuhur were found dead Sunday night inside the family's southwest side apartment at Manchester Village. A distraught relative called 911.

Police say Farah placed her children inside a bedroom closet with two beds propped against the door so they couldn't get out. She then reportedly went to a friend's house and left them locked in the closet for over ten hours.

The closet was two feet wide and six feet long. Zakariyah and Zuhur were trapped in the closet along with three other siblings, ages one through seven.

"There was no physical injuries to the bodies. So they don't know exactly what caused the death but it could appear that it could be a form of suffocation," said Lt. Jeff Duhamell, IMPD.

Farah attorney statement

Ebyan Farah's attorneys issued the following statement on her behalf Wednesday:

"Ebyan Farah will have no public comment in this matter, except to say she is devastated by her children's tragic deaths. She will avail herself of the criminal justice system.

Ebyan Farah hopes the media will be sensitive to the Somali community's sense of privacy and will not intrude in an effort to provide sensationalism in a manner that will ensure Ebyan Farah cannot receive a fair trial, not only in Marion County, but in the state of Indiana.

The family of Ebyan Farah is devasted and shocked by this tragedy. Ebyan Farah's husband, uncles, friends, and the community at large would like the media to respect their privacy."

Mohamed Hersi, Ebyan Farah's Uncle said, "We are a tight community and we believe with God's help that we will face this tragedy with strength and faith."

The father of the children issued the following statement through an attorney:

"The family of Bursan Hassan respectfully requests its privacy be respected during this difficult time of grieving and loss. We decline any additional comment. Prayers for all family members are appreciated. Thank you." - John M. Schwartz, attorney for Bursan Hassan

Community in shock

The brutal nature of the deaths and the young age of the victims has prompted complete strangers to stop by and add items to a growing memorial.

"My daughter, she just wanted to leave something for them. She said it brings tears to her eyes just to hear about everything that's happened," said Angela Cucci, apartment complex resident.

Prosecutors wouldn't discuss the evidence in the case, but say the case is tragic.

"It's always horrible - whether they're children or adults. Whenever you have a death, it's tragic, especially when they're children. We've seen an increase in children's deaths this year and it's something to be concerned about," said Wyser.

Ebyan's husband, the children's father, was in Africa when all of this happened. He has returned to the United States and was supposed to speak with homicide detectives Wednesday. His wife is scheduled to be formally charged in court Thursday morning. She's being held in the Marion County jail on $200,000 bond.

Autopsies are pending on the two children.

Three surviving children have been placed in the care of Child Protective Services.