Person Of Interest In Mariha Smith Case In Court

Investigators Search For Girl's Aunt

DETROIT - A man who Detroit police is calling a person of interest in the killing of 5-year-old Mariha Smith was in court Monday for an unrelated probation violation hearing.

Darnell Cheatham Jr., 19, was arrested Friday but has not been charged in connection with Mariha's death.

Cheatham was convicted of home invasion in April and has violated his probation twice. For the violations, he was ordered to be held in the Wayne County Jail for 45 days.

Sources said Cheatham is the boyfriend to one of Mariha's relatives.

Mariha was reported missing July 24 from her home on Burlingame Street. A body matching her description was found just hours later a mile away in an abandoned house after an arson fire was put out. DNA confirmed the body to be Mariha's.

The girl's mother, Konesha Smith, told police she was passed out when her daughter went missing.

Police were searching for the girl's aunt, Quanita Smith, earlier in the week to question her. Konesha Smith said her sister had failed a polygraph test and was being held by police before eventually being let go.

Family members also said that they think Cheatham is the man shown on a gas station surveillance video buying a relatively small amount of gas in a can shortly before the home where Mariha's body was found went up in flames.

On Wednesday, Konesha Smith said she feared her sister Quanita knew more than she was telling investigators.

Funeral services for the girl were held Friday.

(function() { var po = document.createElement('script'); po.type = 'text/javascript'; po.async = true; po.src = ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })();

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.