LAWRENCEVILLE — Robin Moss wasn’t up to it Friday. She didn’t want to be on the second floor of the Gwinnett County jail, in Courtroom 4, to hear the details of why her son and daughter-in-law are suspected of killing her 10-year-old granddaughter.
She sent a representative, though, and a messenger. Loganville Attorney Michael R. Jones spoke to the media, and spoke of pursuing change.
“We’re gonna start at the governor’s office and come down,” he said. “You start at the top, and you get procedures … in place to protect our children.”
Authorities believe young Emani Moss was starved to death, the final act in a long string of abusive incidents involving her father and stepmother. The Department of Family and Children Services was summoned at least five times, Gwinnett County police at least three.
Nothing substantial, though, was ever done to keep Emani safe, even after her stepmother was arrested and convicted of abusing her.
Jones said Friday that’s not good enough.
On behalf of Emani’s grandmother, he’s requested all of the records DFCS kept on her case throughout the years. No suits or other motions have been filed, but Jones said action will be coming in one form or another.
“We want to see that the system is changed,” he said, “so that our children are safe and this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
“This” was revealed in horrific detail Friday.
Keeping the family together
Emani Moss, a 10-year-old girl, weighed 32 pounds when she died.
Her neighbors at Lawrenceville’s Veranda Chase Apartments didn’t know she was living in a bare room, nothing but a few clothes, a mattress and the “almost overpowering” smell of urine keeping her company. They didn’t know she wasn’t fed, even though “lots and lots” of food was kept in the kitchen. They saw her 2- and 3-year-old siblings — likely in or approaching the same weight class as their much older sister — playing outside “constantly.”
Emani Moss wasn’t even a ghost.
“None of the neighbors even knew that Emani existed,” Gwinnett County Police Det. Colin Flynn said.
Emani’s father, Eman, and stepmother, Tiffany, sat in front of Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Blum Friday afternoon as Flynn ran through the short version of the state’s case against them. Eman Moss watched the homicide detective intently; Tiffany Moss, three- and four-inch braids brushing her eyebrows, stared vacantly ahead or straight down at the floor.
As Flynn spoke, their alleged crimes — already heinous in their previously disclosed, general form — grew legs and sprinted to the end of the spectrum clearly labeled “evil.”
On Thursday, Oct. 24, Eman Moss came home from one of two jobs and found his daughter, born of a previous relationship, “seizing up” in the bath tub. She couldn’t talk. Tiffany, who kept all three children during the day, offered no real explanation. It was an accident, she said.
No one called 911 or took Emani to a hospital, just like an incident in prior weeks when “someone” poured boiling water down Emani’s stomach.
“They were afraid that they would go to jail if they took Emani to the hospital,” Flynn said, echoing the alleged disclosures of Eman during a Nov. 2 interview. Tiffany had already been there in 2010, when she pleaded guilty to beating Emani with a belt.
Emani stayed in the bathtub for nearly a week. Police don’t believe she was fed, then and possibly for a long while prior. According to Eman, his daughter died after six days. The next day, Halloween, Eman Moss went to Walmart and bought a trash can.
They had to get rid of the body “to keep the family together.”
Emani’s body was duct-taped into a ball, wrists to ankles, and put inside a trash bag inside that trash can. Her parents allegedly drove to three different locations — Bethesda Park, Stone Mountain Park, an unidentified spot off Satellite Boulevard — before settling on the latter.
Eman Moss told police he put charcoal and lighter fluid in the bottom of the trash can and started a fire.
“He thought the body would turn to ashes but it didn’t,” Flynn said.
Defeated, the couple loaded the trash can back into the Chevy Trailblazer and went home. Eman Moss took the SUV, and his daughter, to work the next day.
By 3:45 a.m. Saturday, Eman Moss had summoned Gwinnett County police to their apartment. Tiffany Moss had fled with the couple’s two living children, dropping them off at her mother’s house, changing clothes and “saying that she did not want to go to jail,” Flynn said.
She later turned herself in at the Roswell Police Department.
All charges against the Mosses — murder, cruelty to children and concealing the death of another — were bound over to Gwinnett County Superior Court on Friday.
The long run
Jones, the attorney for Robin Moss, has been practicing law for four decades and been privy to his share of egregious crimes. The alleged events behind Emani’s death, though, are the worst he’s seen.
“I’ve tried 85 murder cases, and I’ve seen a lot of terrible stuff,” Jones said Friday. “But this one really bothers me.”
That said, whatever path his legal actions take — and he didn’t rule out taking on DFCS, Gwinnett County police or the school system — they aren’t just about Emani. A piece of paper in a file or a simple reprimand won’t be enough. Those won’t help in the long run.
It’s a system problem, Jones said, and one that needs to be addressed. Now.
“Emani was a wonderful child, her grandmother’s devastated and we want to see some real changes,” Jones said. “That’s our purpose.”