GARFIELD PARK — Police promised they would never give up in their search for the person who killed and dismembered 2-year-old Kyrian Knox, leaving his body in the Garfield Park lagoon.
On Tuesday, they delivered, announcing charges against a man they say killed the Rockford toddler and dumped his body in the West Side park because he wouldn't stop crying after being given milk, which the lactose-intolerant boy couldn't handle.
It was Kamel Harris, police said, a man who Kyrian's mother left the boy with in 2015. Recently-returned DNA tests showed Kyrian had been in Harris' car, something Harris had denied when he was initially suspected in a crime that shocked Chicago and left veteran investigators reeling.
Harris, 41, has been charged with one count of first degree murder, one county of concealment of homicidal death and one county of dismembering a body, according to police.
Chicago Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said Tuesday that a separate person told police that the boy had drank milk that day and was lactose intolerant. Kyrian had been "crying all afternoon," Duffin said.
"He kinda just snapped," Duffin said of Harris.
The Rockford toddler was found in the Garfield Park lagoon in September 2015 in a grisly discovery that shook members of the divers team, police brass said. Then-police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced a "Herculean" effort to solve the murder shortly after the discovery.
"Some incidents create a lasting memory and last year on labor day weekend 2-year-old Kyrian Knox became one of those memories," Supt. Eddie Johnson said Tuesday at a news conference near where Kyrian's body was found.
"Back then we said we would not give up without bringing his killer to justice," Johnson said. "We kept our promise."
Kyrian was 2 years old when he went missing from his Rockford home on Aug. 20, 2015.
Area North Cmdr. Kevin Duffin speaks about the arrest in the Kyrian Knox case Tuesday in Garfield Park. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
This July, police found Kyrian's blood inside Harris' car, despite Harris telling police that the boy had not been in the car, police said.
Around the same time, "third party witnesses" gave police information on the case that "only the killer would have known," Johnson said.
Harris was arrested Monday night at Area North Headquarters, after he was brought by police from Winnebago County Jail, police said. He was initially charged with aggravated battery after assaulting a DCFS worker, reports say.
Police announced that they were looking for a person of interest in Kyrian's slaying last November. But Tuesday, Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago Police spokesman, said an arrest had been made in the boy's "murder & decapitation."
We promised we'd never give up on him and we havent. CPD detectives made an arrest in the murder & decapitation of 2 yr old Kyrian Knox pic.twitter.com/h7eHfvSGvA— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) November 15, 2016
Kyrian was left in the care of Harris and another woman after the boy's mother, Lanisha Knox, said she and her best friend were moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and needed them to watch Kyrian for a few weeks, police said.
The man, whom Chicago Police identified as Harris, and woman told police they looked after Kyrian until two men and a woman approached the man in Rockford, told him they were Lanisha Knox's friends and he gave the young boy to them, police said.
"The baby had been entrusted to him by the baby's mother," said Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin at the Tuesday news conference.
It wasn't until weeks later that the man initially watching Kyrian said he realized Kyrian was missing and contacted Rockford police, police said last November.
Police said they had not been able to find the three people to whom the man said he gave Knox, and the woman told police she hadn't seen the man give the toddler to the group of people.
Police said the investigation had been "very frustrating" and the last known people to see Kyrian were not cooperating.
Officers found the toddler's head, hands and feet in the lagoon and drained the lagoon in an attempt to find the rest of his body. Police went door to door to speak to neighbors and see if they knew what happened.
Sgt. Angel Romero, with the police department's marine unit, said the dive was a grueling situation for his team.
"It was a very tough situation," Romero said. "Probably one of the most difficult things I've dealt with" in 29 years on the job.
The case gained national attention and it was speculated that the remains could have belonged to boys missing from northern Illinois, Indiana and Arkansas before they were identified as Kyrian's.
Here is the Chicago Police Dept. press conference from Tuesday night:
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