A five-year-old girl was raped and murdered at a homeless camp in the woods after allegedly being kicked out of her Kansas home.
Little Zoey Felix’s short life came to a cruel end on Monday when she was found with life-threatening conditions at a gas station and, despite being taken to hospital, was unable to recover.
Mickel W. Cherry, 25, was arrested the following day and charged with rape of a child aged under 14, capital murder and first-degree murder.
Cherry is currently being held on a $4 million bond at the Shawnee County Jail, according to the Topeka Police Department.
Zoey’s neighbors claim the accused had lived with the young girl, her father and her sister in the same house.
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They also claim the five-year-old and other members of her family were forced to move into a homeless camp about two weeks before her death after being kicked out of the house.
The family had a troubled history and the local community had often stepped in to help feed, bathe and clothe Zoey.
The young girl could often be seen roaming around the neighborhood without supervision, neighbors claimed.
Speaking to KSNT, Sharon William said: “Zoey did not deserve to be in anybody’s woods.
“This is her home right here. She has one, two, three, four, five people that would do anything for her.”
Another neighbor, Shaniqua Bradley, said the tot would come over to her house several times during the week in search of something to eat.
“It was always ‘Can I stay? Can I stay?’” she said of her interactions with Zoey.
Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau demanded immediate answers from the Department of Children and Families.
“We have to do more. This is, this is unacceptable,” Sen. Faust-Goudeau insisted. She was echoed by colleague Sen. Molly Baumgardner, who said: “We really need a deep dive on why the system is failing.”
Topeka police confirmed Thursday that they made three visits to the home in September: one on September 5 for a welfare check following a report that the home had no electricity and two domestic disturbance calls in the afternoon and evening of September 19, a little more than an hour apart. Police did not provide details about those two calls.
Laura Howard, the secretary for Children and Families, reiterated her confidence in the system as she faced questions about Zoey’s death: “We have to have those robust services at the community level and across all of our systems to meet our needs.”
The family has since set up a GoFundMe page to cover Zoey’s funeral costs. Her uncle described her as a “sweet, funny and goofy little girl who had a great smile and laugh that lit up the world”.
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