Mariha Trenice Smith, 5, was staying at her Aunt’s home with her mother when she vanished in the middle of the night, July 24, 2011.
An Amber Alert was issued, and the remains of a small child’s charred body were later discovered in an abandoned building a mile from the home.
DNA confirmed the child was Mariha, daughter of Konesha Smith. Lie detector tests were given to numerous family and friends and the little girls Aunt, Quanita Smith, allegedly failed hers, as did her boyfriend Darnell Cheatham, 20. He was arrested shortly after Mariha’s funeral yesterday, August 5, and is being held as a person of interest.
Learn more about the loss of another beautiful child, and see the video after the jump.
Described as smart, vibrant and beautiful, Mariha Smith was kidnapped off the dining room floor of her Aunt Quantita’s home the night of July 24. Mariha’s mother Konesha Smith, admitted she had been partying with others when she fell asleep, only to discover her daughter had disappeared later that morning.
An arson fire shortly after Mariha went missing revealed a burned mattress and the remains of a small child between the ages of 5-7. An autopsy revealed the little girl had been strangled and her skull crushed, but the family would cling to hope until the DNA results came in.
Cousin Felisha Smith said she was the last one to see the little girl alive.
“I was the one who laid her down on the dining room floor and I gave her a hug and a kiss and everything,” she said. “I left at 3:30 and she was still in the house. I was on my way to church and they called me and said, ‘Do you got Mariah?’ And I said, ‘No, I do not.’”
By mid week relatives were fearing the child’s abduction was committed by someone they knew; Konesha confirmed that sister Quantita had failed a polygraph. No one was very surprised when Darnell Cheatham was arrested yesterday after Mariha’s funeral service was over, but it’s hard for them to believe.
Many say they knew it was Cheatham, after police released a video of a man buying 41 cents worth of gasoline, less than an hour before the fire in the abandoned building was reported.
While expressing relief over an arrest, relatives are angry with Quanita Smith and she hasn’t been seen or heard from in days.
Many of Mariha’s relatives demonstrated anger and frustration with Quanita, saying she is not being truthful and has failed a lie detector test. They believe she might be scared, but are hoping she’ll come forward with helpful information.
Darnell Cheatham is Quantita’s boyfriend.
It’s good, but it (doesn’t) bring her back,” said Gennett Cooper, a family friend. “It’s a sad day because it shouldn’t have (ever) happened.”
Although they suspected it pretty much from the start, no one wanted to admit someone who was close to five-year-old Mariha Smith could be responsible for her murder.
“It’s crazy. I mean, we already kind of figured it was,” said Anthony Gibbs, a family friend.
“My family, we just don’t do stuff like that, but I guess I’m proven wrong,” said Neka Myatt, a cousin.
In another heartbreaking move, the family has now been evicted. Konesha Smith and her other three children are believed to be staying with friends at this time.
Konesha Smith wants everyone to know that there has been no bank account set up for Mariha, and any donations should go to the Peace Funeral Home.
I’ll leave you to ponder what possible motive a 20 year old man, would have for kidnapping, murdering and then burning the body of precious 5 year old Mariha Trenice Smith, the latest in horrific child murders we see occur so frequently.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section beneath the video.