Mistrial declared for man charged in 5-year-old Mariha Smith's sexual assault, murder in 2011

22-year-old man was accused of assaulting, killing girl before setting Detroit house on fire

Darnell Cheatham
Darnell Cheatham

DETROIT – A mistrial has been declared in the case of a 22-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting, killing and then setting fire to a 5-year-old girl in Detroit.

Darnell Cheatham was charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Mariha Smith, whose burned remains were found in a vacant house in 2011.

Judge Ulysses Boykin declared a mistrial Tuesday morning after a jury could not reach a verdict. Deliberations had started July 24.

The case will be retried, said Wayne County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Maria Miller.

Defense attorney Kareem Johnson said Cheatham maintains his innocence.

Mariha went missing from her mother's Detroit home in 2011. Her family desperately searched for clues but they couldn't track down the girl. Then a tipster called in a report of a house fire not far from Mariha's mother's home. Inside the burned home the young girl's remains were found.

Cheatham was boyfriend to Mariha's aunt.

Mariha Smith
Mariha Smith

-- Mariha Smith