Almost two years ago, searchers pulled a child’s body from a thicket of kudzu along the side of a rural North Carolina highway. Investigators quickly identified the remains: The child was a 5-year-old girl who had disappeared a week earlier. Within days, authorities charged the girl’s mother and a 29-year-old man with murder.
A Superior Court judge ruled this week that prosecutors may ask for the death penalty if the man, now 31, is convicted. Prosecutors said the death penalty is not on the table for the girl’s mother.
The case turned out to be much more complicated than anyone thought. The mother’s charges include first-degree murder, rape of a child and human trafficking. She allegedly arranged for the other suspect to pick up her daughter in front of her home. She called the police later to report her daughter missing.
Security cameras caught the man carrying the girl toward an elevator in a hotel about 30 miles from her home. That was the last time she was seen alive.
The man is also facing charges of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.
The girl’s death caught local and national attention. Shaquille O’Neal paid for the victim’s funeral, which was attended by more than 2,000 people.
Locally, the allegations against the girl’s mother sparked an inquiry into the role of the county’s Department of Social Services in the case. Reportedly, state investigators were looking into why the department did not turn the family’s complete file over to police. Court records indicate the mother had been the subject of a previous investigation regarding the care of her son.
Source: Raleigh News & Observer, “Death penalty sought in case of slain N.C. girl,” Oct. 6, 2011