CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Facebook messages read out loud at trial reveal the mother of a murdered 4-year-old-boy had concerns over his wellbeing long before his remains were found wrapped in a trash bag in the yard of a vacant Cleveland home.
Ashley Makuhan testified in the murder trial of Romaine Tolbert on Thursday, her second day on the witness stand.
By her own admission, she is a drug addict, has struggled with maintaining reliable housing, and has been in and out of jail and/or prison.
Because of her issues, Makuhan said she entrusted Tolbert’s significant other, Joanna Vega, to care for her youngest son, Eliazar Ruiz.
Vega was the boy’s godmother.
Prosecutors focused their questioning Thursday on a series of Facebook conversations between Makuhan and others involved in the case.
In several messages to Vega, Makuhan pleaded to see her child.
“Please don’t make this harder than it has to be,” she wrote, after getting little or no response from Vega. “I know you’ve grown a bond with him, but I’m still his mother.”
Makuhan couldn’t hold back tears as she read the exchange out loud.
That particular message was sent between periods of incarceration. Makuhan eventually wound up back in prison.
While she was locked up, Ruiz’s remains were found in a trash can back behind a house on Longmead Avenue on Cleveland’s West Side.
The Medical Examiner’s Office was unable to identify the body, so an artist’s rendering was created based on a scientific reconstruction of the remains.
Makuhan saw that sketch while in prison and thought it could be her son.
A DNA sample was taken and later confirmed the remains were those of Ruiz.
After a lengthy investigation, Tolbert and Vega were charged.
Vega pleaded guilty last Friday to involuntary manslaughter and is expected to testify against Tolbert.
On Wednesday, the son of the homeowner, where Ruiz’s body was found, testified that he was coordinating a restoration project at his mother’s home and he referred Tolbert to the man overseeing the work.
While that testimony linked Tolbert to the property, the jury has not yet been presented with evidence specifically placing him there.
The only other witness to take the stand on Thursday was a cousin of Makuhan’s. The two lived with Makuhan’s mother and grandmother for a period of time.
Her testimony was also focused on Makuhan’s attempts to see her child.
It was also revealed that members of Ruiz’s family received suspicious messages on Facebook and via text from unknown numbers and accounts after the boy’s body was identified.
Those messages were turned over to detectives, but the source of them has not yet been revealed in court.
Tolbert’s first interview with police is expected to be played during Friday’s proceedings.