The absolute doll pictured here is four-year-old Autumn Marie Horak of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Just look at that precious little face. Those gorgeous red curls. That sweet smile. Who could cause this little girl harm?
I’ll give you one guess. If you guessed “her mom’s boyfriend,” you won! The prize is knowing you’re right about an utterly horrible fact that I’ve repeated all too often on this blog.
At 7:00 AM on the morning of Friday, February 28, 2020, Milwaukee police responded to the home, in the 400 block of Montana Avenue, of 21-year-old Christina Collado, who told them she had found her daughter “pulseless and not breathing” that morning.
What police found was much worse than an unresponsive four-year-old. Although first responders attempted life-saving measures, Autumn was beyond help and was pronounced dead at the scene. The criminal complaint stated that Autumn, who was wearing only a diaper, had multiple bruises, including a large bruise on her head, circular bruises on either side of her jaw, and contusions on her forearm and sternum. She also had a large burn on her knee in addition to what police described as a “human bite mark” on her thigh.
After initially trying to explain Autumn’s injuries away as being accidental, Christina told police that her 22-year-old boyfriend of about eight months, Jerome Millen Jr., had been abusing her daughter. She described going to make a bottle for her son before hearing a loud banging noise and seeing Jerome “going too far” while trying to force Autumn to go to sleep; according to Christina, she saw Jerome “slam [Autumn’s] head into the floor twice and then held a pillow over her face, smothering her.”
Because Jerome, who lived with Christina at the residence, had fled prior to their arrival, police sought, located, and arrested Jerome at the home of a friend with whom he was known to spend time. When investigators questioned him, Jerome admitted to them that he had abused Autumn, and when police told him Autumn had died, they said Jerome’s response was, “So my life is over.” He told them he had covered Autumn’s mouth multiple times in an attempt to get her to go to sleep.
According to the complaint, Jerome said to police, “If all the injuries caused [her] to die, it’s my fault, my fault. If she suffocated, that is my responsibility, and I killed that child.”
During the interview, Jerome admitted he covered Autumn’s mouth repeatedly the previous evening and that early Friday morning, when she would not go back to sleep, he held the little girl face down in a pillow while applying force, telling her, “Do we understand each other? You are going to sleep.”
Christina told police she had seen Jerome bite Autumn two separate times and admitted that if she had “properly protected” her daughter, the girl would still be alive.
According to police, Christina’s father, Jason Collado, told them he thought Jerome had been abusing his granddaughter “for some time.”
The criminal complaint states that five witnesses knew about the abuse and didn’t report it.
The document reveals that investigators interviewed Jerome’s mother, who told them her son sometimes disciplined Autumn “harder than it should have been.”
Jerome’s sister told police she often overheard Jerome yelling at Autumn, followed by crying, and that she saw bruises on the child on various occasions. She told investigating officers that “over and over,” she heard Jerome in his bedroom striking the little girl, who would then cry out in pain. “I knew something like this was going to happen,” she told police.
The sister also told police that about a month prior, she told Autumn it was time for a bath, and Autumn began to “freak out.” When questioned, Autumn reportedly told the relative she was afraid of baths because Jerome would hold her head underwater so she couldn’t breathe.
Jerome admitted to police that he had held Autumn’s head underwater, explaining that he did it so she could “learn to hold her breath.”
His sister also mentioned to police that when he thought Autumn was lying, Jerome threatened to cut out the little girl’s tongue. What the fuck?!
“[Autumn] is dead, and I guarantee my brother did it,” his sister said during her interview with police. “He deserves to be behind bars. What he was doing was abuse. It was way overboard. I should have called CPS, because maybe she wouldn’t be dead.” (YA THINK?)
Jerome’s sister told police she had never confronted Jerome about the abuse or reported it because she “was afraid of him.”
That is utter bullshit, in my opinion. There is no way anyone was afraid enough of this skinny little shit to allow his blatant abuse and murder of a four-year-old girl. Regardless of the reason, the failure of witnesses to act is largely to blame for this beautiful little girl’s death. Had someone, anyone, said something, there’s a good chance Autumn would be alive.
Oh, and here’s some more terrible news: Christina is currently pregnant with Jerome’s baby. Isn’t that just fucking wonderful?
An autopsy performed by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Autumn’s death was a homicide caused by suffocation.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Torbenson said that if the allegations against Jerome and Christina are true, Autumn was “utterly tortured over a period of months.”
Jerome is charged with physical abuse of a child resulting in death. Christina has been charged with chronic neglect of a child resulting in death. Both appeared in Milwaukee County Court on Tuesday, March 3. Christina is being held at Milwaukee County Jail on $100,000 bail and, if she is convicted, faces up to 60 years in prison. Jerome, whose bail is set at $200,000, is also cooling his heels at Milwaukee County Jail and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Autumn’s paternal grandmother, Angelica (Kumferman) Cvengros, has created a Facebook fundraiser for Autumn’s father, Kyle Hodak, and little brother, Greyson. If you wish to donate, the fundraiser can be found here.
Kyle spoke by telephone on Thursday, March 5 with Wisconsin news station CBS 58. He said Christina was keeping Autumn from him and that he hadn’t seen his daughter since late January, so he had no idea she was being abused. “I want people to know her memory, because I don’t want her memory to ever go away,” he said. “I know it won’t with me and my family, but people need to know that, too. She was the best little thing ever… she didn’t deserve this.”
Kyle told the news station that Autumn loved her dad and was nice to everyone. He is trying to obtain custody of one-year-old Greyson, who is currently in foster care. “Right now I’m still just trying to accept what has happened,” he said, “and trying to do whatever I can to get my son back.”
An obituary for Autumn on the Proko Funeral Home website gives a heartbreaking picture of a friendly, bright little girl.
Autumn Marie Horak, 4 years old, of South Milwaukee, passed away unexpectedly on [Friday], February 28, 2020.(Proko Funeral Home)
Born in Milwaukee, on October 6, 2015, she was the beloved daughter of Kyle Horak and Christina Collado.
Autumn’s family describes her as a “chatter-box” who loves talking to anyone and everyone. She enjoyed taking trips to the zoo and days spent playing at the park. Autumn had a creative imagination and loved books and being read to. She liked to watch Paw Patrol and educational YouTube videos, and adored Minnie Mouse. Above all, Autumn loved spending time with her favorite and most important person, baby brother Greyson.
Autumn will be sadly missed by her loving family; her father, Kyle Horak; mother, Christina Collado; her younger brother, Greyson Horak; paternal grandparents, Angelica Kumferman and Steven Horak; and maternal grandparents, Melissa Palmatier and Jason Collado. Autumn is further survived by her great-grandparents; great-great grandma; and many aunts, uncles, and other relatives.
Visitation will be held on Friday, March 6th, at Proko Funeral Home, from 11:00 a.m. until the time of service at 12:00 noon. Interment will be private.
Rest in peace, sweet girl.
Click here for my future/ongoing coverage of Autumn’s case.
Sources: Inside Edition, Fox 6 Now, Facebook, CBS 58, The Daily Mail, WISN