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Person-of-interest sketch released in homicide of 2-year-old Region girl; $20K reward offered
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Person-of-interest sketch released in homicide of 2-year-old Region girl; $20K reward offered

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series

Homicides increased and Lake and LaPorte counties last year, but decreased in Porter County.

HAMMOND — Police have released the photo of a person of interest in the July 2020 homicide of Joette "Jo Jo" Malone, a 2-year-old Gary girl who was hit by gunfire while sitting in her mother's car outside an apartment complex.

Authorities described the individual as a black man, about 18 to 25 years old, of medium height and thin build.

The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of anyone responsible for the killing.

The agency also has authorized its Gang Response Investigative Team to assist in the investigation, said Danny Youmara, FBI special agent in charge.

Joette was an innocent child who was not the shooter’s intended target and deserves justice, Hammond police said.

Joette was shot about 9:30 p.m. July 29 while she was sitting in her mother's car at the Kennedy Crossing Apartments in the 6900 block of Barrie Lynn Road, police said.

The gunfire came from the 3300 block of Craig Drive, Hammond police Detective Capt. Ezequiel Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa previously told The Times the shooting may have been accidental because Joette was just 2 years old and had no reason to be targeted.

Joette's mother, Ronnica Taylor, and her other two children were also in the car, but they were not wounded, police said. Taylor was transported to a local hospital afterward.

Taylor was visiting a friend at the apartment complex and was preparing to leave with her children when the gunfire broke out.

Joette was flown to Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago after the shooting. She died days later.

Taylor said her daughter was “like a shining star.” She described Joette as a spirited child who loved to talk and play at the park.

During a news conference Aug. 13 at the Hammond Police Department, Taylor pleaded for anyone with information to come forward.

Hammond police urged the shooter to come forward, either alone or with an attorney.

“Anything you know, provide that information and come forward,” Hinojosa said.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the FBI's field office in Indianapolis at 317-595-4000 or Hammond detectives at 219-852-2906. Police said callers may remain anonymous.

Tips also can be submitted at tips.fbi.gov or by email to detectives@hammondpolice.com.

Times staff writer Sarah Reese contributed to this report.

More children caught in crossfire in Lake County; homicide totals mixed in other NWI counties

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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