The toddler and her brother were at home with their mother when the attack took place.
The girl’s young mother and her ex-boyfriend argued over money, a federal indictment says.
The argument escalated, according to the court’s indictment, and the mother stabbed him in self-defense. He then stabbed her repeatedly late Sunday at her Lansing apartment, the document said.
She managed to escape, go to her mother’s house and call the police. But she left behind her two children, the indictment says.
Her 1-year-old son was soon found unharmed in the apartment, the agency said.
But the boy’s 2-year-old big sister, Wynter Cole-Smith — in a white T-shirt with rainbows, her hair in braids down to her shoulders — was gone.
The Lansing Police Department issued early Monday an AMBER alertflashing cell phones, radios, TVs and road signs to aid their search for Wynter and suspect Rashad Maleek Trice, possibly in a white 2013 Chevy Impala.
Reports like this, says the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, “are usually resolved within hours.”
And sure enough, just before dawn on Monday, an officer saw Trice. After a police chase, he collided with a stolen Impala into a squad car about 90 miles from Lansing in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and was taken into custody after attempting to take an officer’s gun, the federal prosecutor said. charge.
But Wynter was not with him.
Lansing Police along with the FBI and others knocked on doors and deployed sniffer dogs. They asked strangers for surveillance video at the doorbell, launched helicopters with heat signature technology and drones, and even called in a dive team, Chief Ellery Sosebee said at a news conference Tuesday.
But not a little girl.
“Wynter is one of our children,” the chief said as families across America gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July. “And we won’t rest until we find her.”
The FBI announced a $25,000 reward for information to locate Wynter.
The hours dragged on.
“We just want to find her,” Wynter’s father told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday. Her 22-year-old mother, whom authorities have not named, was nearby when volunteers searched a suburb north of the city in hopes of finding their daughter, the paper reported.
Still no trace.
That night, FBI agents made a discovery.
Devin Kowalski, acting FBI special agent, gave few details, telling reporters, “This is not the outcome we hoped for.”
“We are devastated by the tragic news that Wynter Cole Smith passed away today,” Ingham County Attorney John Dewane said in a statement. “Our hearts are with Wynter’s family as they begin to process and grieve the needless loss of a beautiful two-year-old.”
The investigation, he said, had moved from a missing person case to a murder investigation.
Trice, 26, has been charged with assault with intent to murder, first-degree criminal assault, first-degree home invasion and other crimes, court records show.
On Friday, federal prosecutors charged him with abducting a minor and abduction resulting in death. If convicted on the latter charge, he could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Trice declined to comment on the state’s allegations through hi
s attorney, but CNN received no response on the federal case. Trice is being held without bond, with a hearing on July 13.
According to the federal court document, investigators concluded that the toddler had likely suffocated on a pink cell phone charging cord found next to her body. The charging cord matched the pink cord parts removed from the car, the complaint says.
“It’s so hard to imagine the last moments of little Wynter’s life,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Dawn Ison, said in a press release.
An FBI agent says in the indictment that cell phone data, information from license plate readers and surveillance video led them to the girl’s body on Wednesday.
Now Wynter’s relatives are planning a vigil on Friday night.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of our beautiful daughter, granddaughter, nephews, niece and big sister,” her family said in a statement Thursday.
“Wynter’s short but beautiful life has been needlessly taken from her; and we will mourn her death forever.
CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.
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