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Darnell Cheatham, Mich. man, accused of raping, killing, setting fire to 5-year-old

CBS
(CBS/AP) DETROIT - Prosecutors have filed charges against Darnell Cheatham, a 22-year-old Detroit man they say abducted, raped and killed, then burned the body of a 5-year-old girl.

The Detroit Free Press reports Cheatham is being arraigned Monday on charges first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, arson, torture, child abuse, and dismemberment and mutilation of a body. He was arrested Friday.

Mariha Smith was last seen sleeping in her Detroit home July 24, 2011 at around 3:30 a.m., according to the paper. Her 26-year-old mother reported her missing a few hours later.

Authorities say, that same day, the girl was strangled and her skull crushed before her body was set on fire on a mattress at a vacant house about a mile from her home.

"This very difficult case was solved due to the diligence and tenacity of Wayne County prosecutors and Wayne County Prosecutor's Office investigators," county Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a news release, reports the paper. "Much of the work was done on their own time to finally bring justice to little Mariha."

It wasn't immediately known if Cheatham has a lawyer. He is reportedly being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 1 for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors say Cheatham was the boyfriend of Mariah's aunt.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

  • Crimesider Staff

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