Eight months after the death of 1-year old Malijha Grant, a suspect is finally being charged with her murder, a gang-related revenge killing that ended with the death of an innocent child.
Twenty-four year old convicted felon DeMartrae Leshawn Kime -- known as Marty or "YM" --- was charged on Monday with second-degree murder for his alleged role in the death of the Kent toddler, who was shot in the head, in her car-seat, while riding in her parents' car last April.
“We believe that he is the person primarily responsible for baby Malijha’s death,” Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas told KIRO 7’s Amy Clancy in an exclusive one-on-one interview late last week.
Watch the chief’s comments tonight at 5 p.m. on KIRO 7 News.
In June, Clancy uncovered investigative documents that identified Kime as a suspect.
According to the documents, surveillance cameras at the Brown Bear Car Wash on Meeker Street in Kent showed that “the shooter lay in wait” for the victim’s car, “then took a route bound to meet” the victim’s car near the Grant family’s home. Investigators believe that evidence shows “this murder was premeditated, preplanned.”
The documents also reveal that Kime and as many as two other suspects weren’t targeting Malijha at all, but her father Martrice Grant.
According to a search warrant, Grant is a member of a street gang known as Deuce 8. Malijha's alleged killers are members of a rival gang known as Low Profile, or Low-Pros, who believe Grant played a role in the murder of their friend John Williams, known by his street name as "Big Stunna."
Williams was shot and killed in downtown Seattle on March 19, just weeks before Malijha's murder.
Clancy asked Thomas: "Whether Martrice Grant was involved in Williams’ death, the Low Pros thought he was?"
Chief Thomas: “Yes.”
Clancy: "And they were going after him because of it?"
Chief Thomas: “Yes.”
Instead of hitting Grant, as police believe was intended, his daughter was struck by a fatal bullet.
“I think with a baby involved, people care,” Thomas told Clancy. “It really strikes home and we got great cooperation” because of it.
The chief said the investigation has been challenging because of the criminal code against “snitching.” But he said, another code was violated in this case: “the other code is don’t mess with people when they’re with their families,” according to Thomas.
“That code, in this case, was violated.”
The Kent police chief believes, because an innocent child was killed, community outrage helped lead to more than 110,000 phone tips and 213 witness interviews.
In addition to Kime, three other persons of interest in Malijha’s murder are behind bars for unrelated crimes.
Five Kent detectives are still working full time on this case, sifting through evidence, hoping to bring additional charges related to Malijha's murder.
Clancy asked Thomas: “Do you believe Kime was the trigger man?”
Thomas responded with, “I’m not ready to go there yet.”
After eight months of investigating, another startling new detail about Malijha's death has emerged: by targeting her father to avenge the murder of John Williams, the alleged killers caused Williams' extended family more pain than justice.
“Baby Malijha is a blood relative of John Williams,” Thomas revealed, “so they were retaliating for the murder of John Williams and they ended up shooting and killing one of his blood relatives.”
Thomas said Williams and Martrice Grant are cousins.
He also credited cooperation by the King County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the ATF and the Seattle Police Department for their help in the investigation.
He said the investigation will continue until all those involved in Grant’s murder are held accountable.
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