Autopsy Results Show Nevaeh Buchanan May Have Been Buried Alive

There have been no arrests made in murder of Michigan 5-year-old.

May 28, 2009, 11:01 AM

July 17, 2009, 2009 — -- A 5-year-old Michigan girl whose body was found in a cement-covered grave last month may have been buried alive.

Autopsy results showed Neveah Buchanan suffocated after inhaling dirt, according to the Associated Press, leaving investigators to believe she was still breathing when she was put into the crude grave along the banks of the River Raisin or her face was forcibly held in the dirt.

Nevaeh's body was found by fisherman June 4, wearing a shirt that matches the description of the clothing the little girl was last seen inbefore she disappeared from the parking lot of her Monroe, Mich., apartment complex on May 24.

Her family is now left to imagine the horrors Nevaeh experienced in her last moments alive.

"We will find out who did it," her great aunt Diana Lawson told ABC's Detroit affiliate WXYZ, "and you will see judgment day."

Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield was not immediately available for comment today, but said shortly after the discovery of Nevaeh's body that there were no visible signs of abuse and that she had been buried along the River Raisin "for awhile."

He declined to comment specifically about how the body was buried, only that it had some type of concrete or cement on the top. He also would not say what else investigators recovered from the grave.

There have not been any arrests made yet in the case.

Crutchfield has named two convicted sex offenders as persons of interest. George Kennedy, 39, and Roy Lee Smith, 48, both said to be acquaintances of Nevaeh's mother, were arrested shortly after Nevaeh's disappearance on probation violations simply for being associated with a child.

When Nevaeh's mother, Jennifer Buchanan, was told about the body found along the river, "she broke down, and broke down hard," Michael Buchanan, her brother, said last month. "She couldn't believe her daughter had to go through this."

Crutchfield said Jennifer Buchanan was cooperating with police, but would not comment when asked if they believe she knows something about the crime or who murdered her daughter.

A Gruesome Find for Family of Fishermen

Guy Bickley, along with his son and father, found the little girl's body while they were fishing along the riverbank.

Ryan Bickley, 15, told The Associated Press his father had spotted a block of poured cement and was hit by the smell he likened to a decomposing body.

Ryan said the smell "overwhelmed them" as his father moved closer to chip away at a piece of the cement, which revealed what appeared to be human skin.

Nevaeh's family members told the Detroit affiliate that they are even more suspicious now of George Kennedy, a 39-year-old registered sex offenderand friend of Nevaeh's mother, who has been named a person of interest by Monroe County police.

Kennedy, who is jailed on probation violations for simply being associated with a child, works with cement in the area where the body was found, according to the family's statements to WXYZ.

Whoever the killer is, Sherry Buchanan told the station, "I hope they give him everything that's got coming to him."

"I told the officer, I said, 'You're not going to be able to protect him,'" she said. "I said 'One way or another, I said, I am going to get to him."

Who Kidnapped Nevaeh?

In addition to Kennedy, police have also named a second person of interest in the case, another sex offender who knew Jennifer Buchanan. That man, Roy Lee Smith, 48, was released from prison last year after serving 15 years for multiple criminal sexual misconduct convictions, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections Web site. Other convictions include mulitple counts of larceny.

He, too, was jailed for probation violations.

When asked in May if Buchanan herself was a person of interest, Crutchfield replied "no comment," according to ABC affiliate WXYZ.

Smith's mother, Donna Smith, told that her son is not involved in Neveah's disappearance.

"I don't believe my son has anything to do with this," Donna Smith said, adding that his previous conviction was because a 24-year-old girl he was with "decided to holler rape."

A bloody towel and a blood-stained tool, along with photos of young girls, were among the evidence confiscated from Kennedy's motel room and in a van that also has ties to Smith.

Donna Smith said her son had traded the van to Kennedy about a week and a half ago and got Kennedy's Thunderbird in return.

In 1998, Kennedy, 39, was charged with a felony for having sex with a girl under 16. That charge was later dismissed, court records show.

In addition to the 1998 charge, court records show that by 2002, Kennedy had been charged with a home invasion and accosting a 13-year-old girl. Kennedy's former court-appointed lawyer Peter Sickels told that the charges were combined in a plea deal that allowed him to be released from prison in 2003.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.