Hasanni's foster mom says couple are innocent

Hours after being freed from jail, the foster mother of 5-year-old Hasanni Campbell said tearfully Monday that she had nothing to do with the boy's disappearance and is confident her fiance is also innocent.

Jennifer Campbell, 33, standing near a collection of photos and Hasanni's favorite toys at a vigil Monday evening in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood, said she and Louis Ross "are both accused of a crime we didn't do."

"He's our little boy," said Campbell, who is also Hasanni's aunt. "We want him home."

Campbell was arrested Friday on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact to what Oakland police believe was the boy's murder. But Alameda County prosecutors let her go Monday, saying they had no evidence to make a case.

Ross, 38, Hasanni's foster father, is still being held without bail on suspicion of murder. Prosecutors said they would decide today whether to file charges against him.

Ross reported Hasanni missing Aug. 10. He said the boy, who has cerebral palsy, had vanished from outside a back entrance to the Shuz shoe store on College Avenue in Rockridge, where Campbell works.

Campbell was arrested Friday at the Union City BART Station after she had been interviewed in Oakland by police investigators. She described her reaction as one of "utter shock."

Campbell was held over the weekend, during which, she said, police tried to raise doubts in her mind about Ross. The Fremont couple are expecting a child in about two months.

She said she had no such doubts. "I told them that they were lying to me," Campbell said.

"Anybody who knows me knows what I'm capable of," Campbell said. Hurting the boy, she added, is "not in my character."

"You live your life to be a good person," Campbell said, "and all that disappears, and you're interrogated and treated like s-."

Although police have reclassified the case from a missing person investigation to a homicide probe, Campbell said she believes Hasanni is "alive and out there."

"There are no leads. Nothing," she said. "He's yet to be found. Find him."

John Burris, an attorney who has been consulting with the couple, said of Campbell, "I'm not surprised that the D.A. chose not to file charges. There was never evidence connecting her to a crime.

"At best, it was just her association with Louis, but that was not in any way reflective of criminal behavior or knowledge on her part," Burris said. "I totally thought it was a wrong-headed approach by the Police Department."

As for Ross, Burris said police probably arrested him simply because they didn't believe his story that Hasanni had been outside the shoe store.

"From there, they inferred that if he's lying about that, then he must know something about it," Burris said. "But there's no real evidence. There's no independent evidence of any kind, no corroborative evidence and no admissions by him. In that sense, it's pretty weak."

Investigators have said they were suspicious of Ross because scent-detecting dogs didn't pick up a trace of Hasanni outside the shoe store. Police also said they had no witnesses who reported seeing the boy in Oakland that day and were getting few tips from the public, which they said is unusual for a high-profile missing person case.

In addition, they have cited an angry text message Ross sent to Campbell 10 days before he said Hasanni disappeared, in which he threatened to abandon the boy on BART.

Ross said that he had sent the message in a fit of anger at Campbell and that he wouldn't have left Hasanni.

A police spokesman, Officer Jeff Thomason, issued a statement Monday saying, "This is a very complex investigation, and if the Oakland Police Department talks about the details surrounding the case, it may jeopardize the integrity of the investigation."

Chronicle staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken contributed to this report. E-mail the writers at kfagan@sfchronicle.com and hlee@sfchronicle.com.

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