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Funeral outrage, then arrest in 5-year-old Detroit girl's death

DETROIT — Prayers and cries for justice in the killing of a young Detroit girl were heard Friday as she was laid to rest.Police made an arrest in the case the same day the funeral was held for 5-year-old Mariha Smith. "A person of interest has been arrested based on the preliminary findings by the homicide unit," Detroit Police spokeswoman Sgt. Eren Stephens said.A source familiar with the investigation told the Free Press that the man arrested is a boyfriend of one of Mariha's aunts.Mariha's body was found burned in an abandoned Detroit home early July 24 -- the same morning she went missing from a home a short distance away. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office said she died of asphyxiation before her body was set on fire. Her death comes as the city is experiencing an uptick in homicides compared with the same time last year.At her funeral, community leaders expressed outrage. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. spoke, saying he came to honor an angel who was taken too soon."What the hell is wrong with us?" Godbee asked. "When did we become pimps? When did we become gangsters? When did we stop loving our children?"Pink and purple flowers sat atop and beside the petite, white coffin.Painted along the side, the name of the child it carries: Mariha T. Smith. The funeral for the 5-year-old girl who was killed last month in Detroit was held Friday -- the same day police said they arrested a person of interest in the case.Mariha's funeral became a rallying cry, as community leaders expressed outrage."This violence has got to stop," said Detroit Councilwoman Brenda Jones, who spoke during the service. "This has got to stop. We have to take care of each other."Mariha's murder comes as the city has experienced an increase in homicides -- 206 as of Aug. 1, compared with 179 during the same period 2010, according to Detroit Police Department statistics. In 2009, 231 homicides had occurred through Aug. 1, according to statistics.Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. spoke during Mariha's funeral, urging anyone who knows anything about her death to come forward.Her death comes just weeks after a 3-year-old, Aarie Berry, was killed by a stray bullet through the window of her home after a daylong neighborhood fight escalated."I wear a badge and five stars, but there's somebody greater to answer to than me," he said. "You can't get away from God."A source familiar with the investigation told the Free Press that the man arrested was a boyfriend of one of Mariha's aunts. An aunt and her boyfriend were both previously questioned by police.So was Mariha's mother, Konesha Smith, who told police she didn't remember anything because she had passed out on the couch after drinking during a get-together at the house. A polygraph indicated she was being truthful, a source said.Minutes before Mariha's body was discovered, a man bought 41 cents worth of gasoline from a nearby gas station, police said.The girl was laid to rest at Detroit Memorial Park West.Three doves were released -- representing the father, the son and the Holy Spirit -- before family and friends made their way to the Garden of Joy.A rope, attached to a crane and swaddled around her small casket, lifted Mariha up and placed her into a grave.Family members tossed flowers into her grave and said their good-byes."We love you, Mariha."Balloons were released into the sky.Konesha Smith said she wants her daughter to know she loves her."I will never forget the time I spent with you," she said. "We're going to find the guy that did this to you."Hours later, police revealed someone had been arrested late in the day.At the cemetery, Mariha's father lingered after his daughter's burial.Curtis Miller said he never knew for certain that he had a daughter until after her death. The 27-year-old Detroiter said he heard a rumor last year that he could be her father. He was contacted the Sunday she went missing and was asked to take a blood test.It came back positive. Miller never met her."I would have took care of her," he said.Godbee pointed out Friday's funeral was for Mariha, but weeks earlier, Aarie was the victim. He said the foolishness has to stop."Detroit, we failed miserably," Godbee said, adding that people have to change.

Added: Aug-7-2011 Occurred On: Aug-7-2011
By: Zipper10
Regional News
Tags: Funeral, outrage, arrest, 5 yr. old
Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States (load item map)
Views: 8865 | Comments: 6 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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