Community relieved arrests made in deadly shooting

April 5, 2014
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Sherman Brown, Ta’Niyah Thomas’ grandfather, looks at the makeshift memorial next to Ta’Niyah’s home Saturday. Four arrests were made Friday night in the 10-year-old’s death. Her funeral was held Saturday. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Candles, balloons and stuffed animals decorate a makeshift memorial next to the home of Ta’Niyah Thomas who was shot and killed Monday morning. Four arrests were made in the case Friday night. Order a Print

Things just won’t be the same.

That’s what Ta’Niyah Thomas’ grandfather Sherman Brown and family friend Jerry Hine said Saturday as they stood in front of a memorial erected in the girl’s memory outside her family’s apartment at 450 W. Chestnut St., Washington.

The pair stepped outside, away from the rest of their family and friends, to reflect after Ta’Niyah’s funeral earlier in the day. With emotions still raw, Brown said Friday night and Saturday morning were rough.

“They were caught,” Brown said of the four men accused in the 10-year-old’s death. “But I’m still not happy. But what can you do? It’s a terrible loss for me.”

During an 18-hour period, family members were notified of the arrests, were present while the men were arraigned and said good-bye to Ta’Niyah.

“It’s just too much,” Hine said.

Anthian Goehring, 28, Douglas Cochran Jr., 18, Malik Thomas, 20, and Richard White, 18, all of Washington, were arraigned Friday night before District Judge Robert Redlinger on charges of criminal homicide, robbery, theft and burglary. Goehring is also charged with discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure, person not to possess a firearm and reckless endangerment. Cochran also was charged with reckless endangerment.

All four men remain in Washington County jail without bond.

Police said robbery was the motive behind the deadly shooting, and that all four men arrived at the apartment building in one vehicle. Police allege Goehring and Cochran kicked in the main door of the apartment building, approached the second floor apartment and fired multiple shots through the door.

Ta’Niyah was asleep early Monday when the shots were fired, but apparently awoke when she heard gunfire and attempted to get to her mother’s bedroom when she was hit by two bullets. The fourth-grade student at Washington Park Elementary School was pronounced dead a short time later at Washington Hospital of a gunshot wound to the head.

Brown said the funeral service was beautiful, and that his family has received an outpouring of support from the community. But Brown said it does little to help his broken heart.

Community members were relieved to learn arrests had been made. Many had been following the case all week, and some rallied Wednesday night for justice for the girl.

“I feel bad for the family,” Eric Chronsiter said. “I’m glad they made the arrests, but I figured they would. Especially with a 10-year-old involved.”

Others believed there is more to the story than is currently being released. Police would not speculate if drugs were a factor. The girl’s mother, Shantye Brown, is facing drug charges after being picked up during a drug sweep in February. Both she and her boyfriend, Robert Lester, have previous convictions on drug charges. Police have been unable to locate Lester since the shooting.

Washington Mayor Brenda Davis believed the arrests were good for the community.

“It’s a very tragic situation,” Davis said. “The community can start to heal knowing the individuals are off the streets.”

Davis said she was proud of the Washington Police Department, who worked round-the-clock on the case.

“The arrests were made because of great collaboration between all the different agencies,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ta’Niyah’s family is trying to heal. Brown said he wasn’t sure yet if his daughter will stay in the apartment.

“She really devastated,” he said. “It’s all still very rough.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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