19-year-old Darnell Cheatham is the man police arrested on Friday. He's a suspect in the murder of five-year-old Mariah Smith. The boyfriend of Mariah's aunt was in court Monday morning for a probation violation in another case. He's still not charged in the child's death.
"Murder investigation, if he's a suspect, it's not relevant to the issue today," said FOX 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton.
He said police and prosecutors got lucky. A person can only be held for 72 hours without being charged and investigators have not yet presented a warrant request to the Wayne County prosecutor, so Cheatham was on the verge of being released. However, he was already on probation for a home invasion and tested positive for marijuana -- his second probation violation. The judge sent him to jail for 45 days.
"He's still getting high," said Judge Wade McCree. "But he's going to be clean when he comes back to see me because he's going to be across the street."
Across the street in the Wayne County jail while investigators continue to work on the Mariha Smith case.
Since Mariah's death, police have been searching for a man seen buying a small amount of gasoline a short time before the girl's charred body was found in an abandoned house down the street. Both Mariah's aunt, Quanita Smith, and her boyfriend, Darnell Cheatham, failed their lie detector tests when questioned about the murder.
"The prosecutor better come up with some more evidence, enough to sustain a murder investigation. This is not some spitting on the sidewalk case. This is a very serious charge, and if the prosecutor has the evidence bring it on and if not, that's it," Langton said.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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