Vigil planned for slain 10-year-old Washington girl

A march and candlelight vigil will be held in Washington on Wednesday night to remember Taniyah Thomas

April 1, 2014
Candles, balloons, flowers and teddy bears make up a memorial for Ta'Niyah Thomas, a 10-year-old killed during a home invasion, at her apartment at 450 W. Chestnut St. in Washington. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The fatal shooting of a 10-year-old girl inside her Washington apartment early Monday morning has prompted the community to call for swift justice in her killing as police released new details about the investigation.

Washington police Chief Chris Luppino said his department interviewed three persons of interest Tuesday, although nothing was “panning out” in the investigation into the fatal shooting of Ta'Niyah Thomas early Monday morning during a home invasion.

Luppino said investigators also were interviewing other people, but could not say if they have any suspects or if an arrest is imminent.

While investigators chased leads Tuesday, several city residents spent time paying their respects at a makeshift memorial for Ta'Niyah next to the apartment at 450 W. Chestnut St. where the shooting occurred. Some said they're tired of the violence and “don't snitch” culture that is permeating their community and thought the senseless killing of the young girl will change that dynamic and persuade witnesses to come forward to police with information.

“It was somebody else's baby this time, but next time it could be your baby,” city resident Cliff Cochran said. “It's a community affair. We have to stop this madness. People need to get involved.”

Cochran hopes the death of young Ta'Niyah will be a wake-up call to for residents to help investigators solve the killing.

“As a community and society, we're looking for these crimes to be solved,” Cochran said.

Ta'Niyah's mother, Shantye Brown, spent some time Tuesday at the small memorial filled with stuffed animals, balloons and flowers arranged outside the building where intruders broke through an entrance door at 3:50 a.m. and shot through her family's apartment walls. Ta'Niyah was shot while she ran from her room trying to find her mother in the apartment, investigators have said. Brown, who declined to comment, sobbed as she embraced family members and other visitors standing around the memorial.

Luppino said police are investigating whether the shooting was drug-related. Brown was arrested on charges of possession with intent to deliver during a countywide drug sweep in February.

Her live-in boyfriend, Robert Lester Jr., pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver in November 2012 and was sentenced to 12 to 23 months in jail, according to court documents.

“We're definitely not ruling it out. We're looking at this seriously,” Luppino said. “We don't think this was random.”

Meanwhile, city officials and the “Stop The Violence” community group are organizing a march and candlelight vigil Wednesday night. The march will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Shop 'n Save parking lot in Washington and continue up to the Washington County Courthouse, where several public officials will speak. People can bring flashlights or glowsticks for children to hold during a candlelight vigil planned after the march.

Washington Mayor Brenda Davis said they need more “eyes and ears in the neighborhoods” to cooperate with police to help them solve violent crimes.

“We do need the community to come forward to tell us what they're hearing, what they're seeing and who is talking in the underground world,” Davis said. “This is different because we're dealing with an innocent child.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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