Darnell Cheatham Charged With Raping, Setting Fire To 5-Year-Old Mariha Smith

A 22-year-old Detroit, Mich. man has been charged in the 2011 death of a little girl.

Darnell Cheatham was arraigned Monday on charges of first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, arson, torture, child abuse, and dismemberment and mutilation of a body, Detroit Free Press reported.

Investigators say Cheatham killed 5-year-old Mariha Smith, who was last seen sleeping in the front room of her house at 3:30 a.m. July 24, 2011.

Cheatham -- who had been dating the child's aunt, Quanita Smith -- allegedly raped the child before setting her on fire. Although both Quanita and Cheatham failed their lie detector tests back in 2011, and Cheatham was previously arrested and considered a suspect in the case, there was not enough evidence at the time to charge him, My Fox Detroit reported.

Investigators say Cheatham spent the early morning hours of the murder with the girl's mother and aunt, left the house with Mariha, sexually assaulted and killed her, then set the mattress on fire in the home about a dozen blocks away, according to KSDK.

The Detroit Fire Department was called to a fire in an abandoned home at 8 a.m. that day. When Mariha’s body was discovered, her skull had been crushed and her body was charred, according to the Daily Mail.

Assistant Prosecutor Mark Hindelang asked that no bond be set for Cheatham considering the seriousness of the charges against him.

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

Cheatham has a Nov. 1 preliminary hearing.



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