Detroit man faces trial for abduction, murder of 5-year-old

Mariha Smith, 5, was murdered in July 2011. CBS Detroit

DETROIT- A Detroit man is scheduled to go on trial Monday in the abduction, rape and killing of his girlfriend's niece, reports CBS Detroit.

Darnell Cheatham, 23, faces first-degree murder and several other charges in the death of Mariha Smith, 5. The child's remains were found in July 2011.

Konesha Smith, Mariha's mother, said she last saw Mariha when she was putting her and her three other children to bed on the first floor in their Detroit home. When she woke up, the 5-year-old was missing, according to CBS Detroit.

Prosecutors said Cheatham took Mariha Smith from the home on July 24, strangled her and crushed her skull. The girl then was tied to a mattress and set on fire in an abandoned house about a mile from where she was abducted.

More than two dozen witness could be called during trial, according to court records.

Cheatham's defense attorney, Kareem Johnson, said his client maintains his innocence.

If Cheatham is found guilty of first-degree murder, he will receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He is also charged with torture, child abuse, arson and mutilation of a body.

  • Crimesider Staff

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