DETROIT – A DNA test confirmed that the charred body of a young girl found in a burned-out Detroit house was a 5-year-old who was reported missing by her mother, Detroit police said Friday.
Detroit police had been hesitant to link the missing girl to the burned body until the return of the DNA test. But the results from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab confirmed it was Mariha Trenice Smith, police said in a news release.
An autopsy earlier this week revealed the girl was strangled and her body burned after she died. Her skull also had been crushed. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.
"My niece suffered. She didn't have to suffer," Dominique Poole said after learning about the DNA match. "This is crazy."
Konesha Smith told police she last saw her daughter about 3:30 a.m. Sunday sleeping on a floor in their home. She said she didn't notice the girl was missing until about 12:30 p.m., when she called police and an Amber Alert was issued.
Firefighters found the girl's body about 8 a.m. Sunday on a mattress in a burning two-family flat about a mile from her home.
Smith has said a window in her home was "wide open" and a screen removed when she discovered her daughter was missing.
But she also told reporters she and her daughter were sleeping in the same room, and she did not know how anyone could have taken the girl. She and other family members voluntarily submitted to lie detector tests earlier this week while the search for Mariha continued through alleys and vacant houses in the girl's neighborhood.
Police said Thursday a man videotaped buying gasoline at a neighborhood gas station was a "person of interest" in the torching of the vacant two-family flat.
The man made a purchase about 7:45 a.m. Sunday, and police asked for the public's help in identifying him.
"Right now, we can't bring her back," said Diane Henry, Mariha's grandmother. "Mariha was a happy baby. She was just a happy, pretty baby. She was a special child."