The discovery of a child’s badly decomposed body in a Centreville garage sparked parallel investigations Wednesday in Belleville and Las Vegas — with a link to a sex-trafficking case.
The body was later identified as that of 6-year-old Alysha Quate.
Belleville police said they believe the child’s death happened in 2013 in Belleville, and that they were investigating the case as a homicide.
The case began unfolding Monday night when a woman in Las Vegas went to a women’s shelter and said she had been sex-trafficked by her husband for the past two years, according to Las Vegas police.
The woman told authorities the body of her “baby” could be found in the detached garage of a boarded-up Centreville home. Her “baby” turned out to be the body of Alysha, who police now believe was 6 when she died.
That phone call to police was made by the wife of 34-year-old Jason Quate. Jason Quate was arrested Tuesday in Las Vegas on charges of sex trafficking of an adult and accepting or receiving earnings of a prostitute.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, in a statement, said Quate’s wife told them she and her husband moved to Las Vegas about two years ago after residing in Illinois.
“The victim advised that during their time in Illinois, they had three children, but that Quate had killed a 6-year-old girl and put her body in a container in a house,” Las Vegas Police said in the statement, adding that “the body of a child was located where the victim indicated it would be found.”
In 19 years of law enforcement, it was one of the cases I will never forget.
Lt. Ray Spencer, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
In addition, Las Vegas police said Quate’s wife told them there were two juveniles living with them in Las Vegas “that Quate was abusive to.” Police said those two children, who were taken into protective custody, “exhibited signs of abuse and neglect.”
Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said Quate’s wife told police the body was in a container.
She also said her husband was abusive to her and their children and had forced her to solicit herself for prostitution, Spencer said. Despite living in the same home, the woman said she did not have much contact with the children because her husband forced her to stay in one room and did not allow them to speak to her.
“They had obviously had very limited contact with any family, any neighbors, any friends,” Spencer said. “Their social skills were very non-age-appropriate.”
Spencer said they were continuing to work with Belleville police on the case.
“In 19 years of law enforcement, it was one of the cases I will never forget,” Spencer said.
A SWAT team went to the Las Vegas-area house early Tuesday and recovered the two children, both in their early teens, and arrested Jason Quate. Spencer said the house was a “very disturbing scene,” and the children had physical injuries where they appeared to have been abused. Neighbors said the children did not leave the house and were not in school, according to police.
Belleville Police Capt. John Moody said investigators believe Alysha’s body was taken to the Centreville home after she was killed in Belleville.
“The information that was given was that the actual death may have (occurred) in Belleville ... in the 200 block of Lebanon Avenue,” Moody said.
On Wednesday morning, about 10 members of the Belleville Police Department strung up crime tape around the former residence of Jason Quate in the 200 block of Lebanon Avenue.
Neighbor Mark Jackson, who said he has known Jason Quate since Quate was 6, said he rarely saw Jason Quate and his wife together at their home at 255 Lebanon Avenue.
Jackson also said he may have heard a physical altercation at the house at some point. He said he often heard the children playing but only in the early morning or late evenings when Jason Quate was home.
Jackson also said he believes the Quates left the property in the spring or summer of 2015, and the house has been abandoned for some time. Quate’s wife may have moved and lived with a Brooklyn police officer in Centreville, Jackson said.
Belleville police issued a statement saying they are “working with the Centreville Police Department, Illinois State Police and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during the initial stages of the investigation. The approximate age, sex, and possible cause of death will not be determined until after the autopsy which is scheduled for later this week.”
As of Wednesday afternoon an autopsy had not been scheduled for the child.
St. Clair Coroner officials said two doctors will perform the autopsy, given the circumstances of the case, and they were still coordinating schedules.
Belleville police said a “suspect” in the death investigation has been identified and was being held Wednesday in Las Vegas on unrelated charges. Belleville police did not name the suspect. A team of Belleville homicide investigators was scheduled to travel to Las Vegas for the investigation.
Centreville Detective Sgt. DeMarius Thomas said Centreville police received a call about 2:20 a.m. Tuesday about remains possibly being in a garage at 7201 Russell Ave. The garage was next to a small, vacant, two-bedroom house that was boarded up in places and overgrown with weeds.
The coroner removed the body on a stretcher about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday from the house, which neighbors said had been vacant for about two years. A tote was also removed from the garage.
Quate was being held Wednesday with bail set at $23,000 cash. He denied all charges against him Wednesday in an interview with KSNV News 3 in Las Vegas.
News-Democrat reporters Carolyn P. Smith and Kara Berg contributed to this report. Kaley Johnson can be reached at 618-239-2526; Dana Rieck can be reached at 618-239-2642.