4 charged in slaying of 10-year-old girl in Washington County apartment
A Washington County man was one of four people charged on Friday in the fatal shooting of a 10-year-old girl during a home invasion. She was his distant cousin.
Malik Thomas, 20, and the others were charged with homicide, robbery, burglary, conspiracy and related charges in Monday's slaying of Taniyah Thomas at her family's apartment in the city of Washington, police Detective Lt. Daniel Stanek announced at an evening news conference.
Also charged are Anthian Goehring, 28; Richard White, 18; and Douglas Cochran Jr., 18, Stanek said. All of the men live in Washington.
“They thought the occupants (of the apartment) had money,” Stanek said in explaining what police believe prompted the shooting.
Thomas and Cochran were arrested at the Washington County Correctional Facility, where they have been held on unrelated drug charges since Wednesday, Stanek said. Goehring and White were arrested at their homes, he said.
The fourth-grader was shot in the head after the gunman and a possible accomplice kicked in the entry door of the apartment building on West Chestnut Street at 3:50 a.m., climbed a flight of stairs and began shooting through a closed door, police said.
No one knocked on the door before at least four shots were fired through the solid wooden door, police said.
“Everybody was asleep when this started,” Stanek said this week. “But I believe they targeted this residence.”
“We think she got up out of bed and was wandering through the apartment, maybe to her mom's room,” he said.
When asked why the robbers began shooting through the closed door, Stanek replied, “They felt they could get into the apartment that way.”
The detective said police are still trying to determine how many of the accused had guns and who may have fired the fatal shot.
Taniyah shared the apartment with her mother, Shantye Brown, 34; her mother's boyfriend, Robert Lester, 26, and the couple's infant, police said.
“The little girl was a distant cousin of Malik,” Stanek said.
Brown is awaiting a preliminary hearing scheduled April 24 on charges of possession and distribution of crack cocaine, court records show. Lester was convicted in August of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine, according to court records.
Stanek said Brown has cooperated with police. Investigators have not been able to find Lester since they talked to him immediately after the shooting, Stanek said.
News of the arrests spread to the funeral home where visitation was being held for Taniyah, a student at Washington Park Elementary School.
A number of friends and family members, some of them distraught, left there to gather outside the police station.
“They killed my baby. They killed my 10-year-old daughter for nothing,” Curtis Thomas said.
When asked what he would say to the four, Thomas replied: “You took my daughter. You took my world. You took everything from me.”
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Brian Bowling contributed to this report.