May 23 (UPI) -- A Chicago jury acquitted a man of murder in the 2015 slaying of a toddler whose dismembered body parts were later found floating in the Garfield Park Lagoon.
Cook County jurors deliberated for 9 hours before deciding to acquit 44-year-old Kamel Harris of all the charges he faced in the death of 2-year-old Kyrian Knox, including first-degree murder, dismemberment and concealment of a homicidal death.
Jude Timothy Joyce had given the jury the option to find Harris guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, but they declined.
Prosecutors said Harris murdered Kyrian, who was lactose intolerant, after he cried for hours from stomach pain from drinking milk.
Harris had been watching Kyrian and another child for their mothers and was accused of falsely reporting Kyrian as missing after dismembering his body and tossing the remains into the lagoon.
On Wednesday, Harris testified he had been babysitting his grandson and Kyrian when a man and two women came to his house saying they were there to pick up Kyrian. Harris' daughter and Kyrian's mother, Lanisha Knox, were in Iowa at the time searching for jobs.
He added that the man handed him a cellphone on which he spoke to a woman he said was Knox and handed the child over. Two weeks later, Harris said his daughter called to say she and Knox were returning to pick up the children.
Assistant State's Attorney Anastasia Harper dismissed his testimony as "ridiculous."
"He invented this fiction because he's trying to escape responsibility for what he did to that baby in his home," Harper said.
Prosecutors reached an agreement in February for Harris to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and receive a sentence of about seven years, but Kyrian's family protested.
Harris was expected to be released from Cook County Jail on Thursday.