Police made an arrest in the killing of a Detroit girl who was reported missing by her mother on Sunday, hours after her strangled, beaten and burned body was found in an abandoned house that had been set ablaze.
Mariha Smith, 5, disappeared from her home early Sunday morning, the same day that emergency responders and investigators found the body of a little girl, burned beyond recognition, inside an abandoned home about a mile from the Smith residence, ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV in Detroit reported. DNA test results eventually revealed the body was indeed that of Mariha Smith.
Sources told The Associated Press that an autopsy report indicates the girl was strangled and her body burned after she died. Her skull had been crushed, indicating the girl had also been beaten, the sources said.
The Detroit Police Department said the case was being investigated as a homicide and urged the public to come forward with any information on the arson. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced a $2,500 reward for any information related to the death of the girl.
Investigators issued a blurry piece of surveillance video Thursday showing a man buying a small amount of gas. Police called him a person of interest and said he was believed to be connected to the case.
On Friday, the same day funeral services were held for the 5-year-old, police took a man into custody, calling him a person of interest.
Sgt. Eren Stephens of the Detroit Police Department told the AP the suspect's connection to the girl and her family was not available. However, some of Smith's family members told WXYZ-TV they knew the man's identity and that he was in fact close to the family.
ABCNews.com's calls to the Detroit police were not immediately returned.
Dominique Poole, the child's aunt, told ABCNews.com she thought her sister's boyfriend, Darnell Cheatham was acting suspicious the day the 5-year-old vanished.
"I knew it had to be someone that was at the house that did it," Poole said.
Another one of the child's aunts and her boyfriend were already questioned by police earlier in the investigation, according to Poole. Several relatives had expressed anger with the two, Quanita Smith and Darnell Cheatham, because they claim they were not being truthful with police and allegedly failed a lie detector test administered by police.
"Everyone knows they failed the lie detector test and I hope Police bring justice and keep him in jail," Poole said.
Poole said the man in custody is Cheatham, but the Detroit Police Department has not confirmed this.
Several hundred people, including Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, attended funeral services for Mariha.
"I'm here today because I want to pay honor to an angel, Mariha, who left too soon," Godbee said. "Detroit, we failed miserably. This is our fault."
No charges have been formally filed and according to WXYZ prosecutors have not yet set an arraignment for the man in custody.