DETROIT - A suspect has been charged in the death of a missing Detroit girl whose body was found burned in a vacant house hours before her mother noticed her missing.
Monday Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy charged Darnell H. Cheatham, age 22, in connection to 5-year-old Mariha Smith's death. Cheatham is the boyfriend of Mariha's mother Konesha Smith.
Firefighters found the body of little Mariha lying on a mattress on July 24 2011. Her charred remains were found after firefighters put out a fire in an abandoned home on Waverly Street.
The Medical Examiner's Office later confirmed she was sexually assaulted, strangled and her skull crushed.
Police said her body was set on fire after she died.
"This very difficult case was solved due to the diligence and tenacity of Wayne County prosecutors and Wayne County Prosecutor's Office investigators. Much of the work was done on their own time to finally bring justice to little Mariha," said Worthy.
Cheatham is charged with a list of gruesome crimes that include first degree murder, felony murder, torture and child abuse, and disinterment and mutilation of a body.
Konesha Smith told police she first noticed her daughter missing about noon that day. Smith said she last saw Mariha asleep about 3:30 a.m. on a floor in the home.
Worthy says Smith was with Cheatham before the child's body was found.
Cheatham is expected to be arraigned in court at 2:30 Monday.
First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
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