A missing 2-year-old Michigan girl who disappeared during an attack on her mother was found dead nearly 100 miles away in Detroit, three days after she vanished.
Wynter Cole Smith’s body was discovered Wednesday evening by FBI agents in an overgrown alley in a neighbourhood on the east side of Detroit, ending a massive search along a major interstate between the city and the state capital.
“I am deeply saddened to report that the search for Wynter Cole Smith has come to an end,” said Lansing police Chief Ellery Sosebee. “This investigation has moved from a missing child case to a homicide investigation.”
Sosebee declined to offer more details as he promised that the girl’s family will get justice.
“This is not the outcome anyone had hoped for,” Sosebee said.
Wynter lived with her mother in Lansing, 90 miles (145 kilometres) west of Detroit. Rashad Trice, 26, was suspected of taking Wynter late Sunday. Police said Trice stabbed the 22-year-old mother before leaving with her car and the child.
He is not the toddler’s father, but her mother is a former girlfriend, authorities said.
Wynter wasn’t with him when Trice was captured Monday in suburban Detroit, following a police chase and crash. He was charged Wednesday with attempted murder and other crimes.
Trice was denied bond during a court hearing in Ingham County. He is also currently is on probation for multiple crimes in Livingston County, including assault and resisting police, according to online Corrections Department records. It wasn’t immediately known if he had a lawyer who could comment on the charges.
Searchers fanned out Wednesday near a highway between Lansing and Detroit to look for the girl. Sosebee said divers, dogs, drones and helicopters were involved in the search, and the FBI posted a $25,000 reward for information.
“Our teams were searching multiple areas across the state over and over again,” said Devin Kowalski, who is in charge of the FBI in Detroit and announced the discovery of Wynter’s body.
Wynter’s family said in a statement that they are “heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful daughter, granddaughter, cousin, niece, and big sister.”
“Wynter’s brief but bright life was taken from her unnecessarily, and we will grieve her death forever,” they added.
The family, which is planning a Friday evening vigil in Wynter’s memory, said they have asked Michigan’s Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “to consider legislation that further ensures that multiple violent offenders remain in jail or prison, as they are tragically a threat to all of us.”