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Police, relatives still search for answers in 3-year-old Mayouna Smith’s death

A little girl’s screams penetrated the walls of an Amherst apartment the night of Jan. 17, 2014. A neighbor listened. There was another voice. A man yelled and swore, venting his fury.

Hours later, Mayouna Smith was found dead. Her mother discovered her “face down next to an air mattress in her bedroom.”

Only two adults were in the apartment on Allenhurst Road that night: Mayouna’s mother, Ruhiyyih Shropshire, and her mother’s boyfriend, Lamar Daniels.

Shropshire and Daniels have told police they have no idea how the girl died.

But 18 months later, new details surrounding the child’s final days and hours have come to light, after The Buffalo News filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain a New York State child fatality report.

“The child was found to have extensive bruising on her back, front, stomach, face, buttocks, arms, thighs, shoulders and genital area and her death was the result of blunt force trauma to her internal organs,” the report stated.

It gets worse.

The autopsy discovered “two lacerations to her bowel with both old and fresh injuries. Additionally the child had vaginal trauma ...”

Even with all those injuries, Mayouna might have lived if someone had sought help:

“The time of death was estimated to be between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. The medical examiner stated that it was possible that the child may have survived had she received medical care,” the report stated.

Mayouna’s death has been ruled a homicide. But no arrests have been made. Shropshire and Daniels have stopped cooperating with authorities.

The state report describes Daniels, 26, and Shropshire, 23, as “subjects” in the investigation, and Amherst Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen does not dispute that assessment.

“They are part of the investigation,” Cohen said. “At some point in time, we hope to resolve this investigation with an arrest.”

Shropshire and Daniels are no longer living together. The News spoke with a family member of Shropshire asking for her to comment but received no reply. The News was not able to contact Daniels after repeated efforts.

Daniels has told police he is being represented by a lawyer, but he has not revealed the lawyer’s identity.

The report obtained by The News also states that Daniels was involved in a previous relationship, and that relationship was marked by domestic violence of the woman who is the mother of Daniels’ son.

“The mother said she had not had contact with the father since 2012. She told the caseworker that there was domestic violence in her relationship with him, that he used drugs and had a quick temper,” according to the report compiled by the Office of Children & Family Services in Albany.

And in Daniels’ relationship with Shropshire, the alleged domestic violence continued, relatives told The News.

What’s more, the neighbor who had heard Mayouna screaming that night in January 2014 told police there was fighting in the apartment in the hours before the girl’s death and that it was not uncommon to hear the couple fighting.

Additionally, Amherst police told an Erie County Child Protective Services caseworker, who conducted the field investigation into the death, that Shropshire “appeared intimidated” by Daniels.

If no one is charged with killing the girl, Cohen said, there is the possibility of making an arrest on lesser charges of sexual assault and child endangerment, “depending on what we end up with.”

Seeking justice

Mayouna was not Daniels’ daughter. Mayouna’s father was David Smith, the son of Annette Allen.

And sometimes Mayouna was allowed to spend time with her paternal grandmother, who found her visits filled with joy. Holding up a computer tablet, Allen last week played a video in which Mayouna sang her “ABCs,” giggling as she stumbled over some of the letters and improvised some of the words, before switching to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Allen also recalled Mayouna coming over for morning visits and knocking on her bedroom door, looking to climb in bed and snuggle with her.

“Nana, nana, I want to come in,” Mayouna would say.

And it is those precious memories that prompt Allen and her sister, Paulette Chatmon, to ask why no one has been arrested when only two adults had access to Mayouna before she was killed. The only other person at the apartment was Shropshire and Daniels’ infant daughter.

“We want justice for Mayouna. There they are, walking around like nothing happened, the mother and the boyfriend. What kind of consciences do they have?” said Chatmon, an evangelist at Coldspring Church of God in Christ Jesus. That is where Mayouna’s funeral service was held last year in Buffalo.

“Mayouna would have turned 5 last month,” Chatmon said. “She will never experience going to school.”

After the killing, Allen said, she spoke with Shropshire.

“She told me that the only person she ever left Mayouna with when she worked or went to school was her boyfriend,” Allen said.

Shropshire not only lost her 3-year-old daughter, but her infant daughter was placed in foster care.

“Now she is pregnant,” Allen said. “I know she does not want the baby taken away when it’s born.”

Authorities have independently confirmed that possibility, adding that Daniels is not the father.

The state report

In an interview with the investigating caseworker, Shropshire said that neither she nor Daniels had harmed Mayouna.

“The mother told the caseworker that the subject child had not acted unusual and that she did not have concerns for her, other than that she had an upset stomach for several days prior to her death,” the state report stated.

“The caseworker told the mother that the child had died from injuries that were inflicted and asked if there was anything she wanted her to know. The mother said she did not know what happened and there was nothing she wanted to tell her.”

The caseworker also interviewed Daniels.

“He denied harming the subject child and stated he did not know what happened to her,” the report stated. “He confirmed that he and the mother were the only caretakers for the child for several days prior to her death.”

The report also pointed out that Shropshire and Daniels refused to stop visiting their infant daughter after she was placed in the care of a relative following Mayouna’s death. CPS responded by obtaining an Erie County Family Court order that authorized the county to place the baby in foster care, where the child remains.

CPS previously investigated Mayouna’s well-being in May 2013, according to the report. The investigation was triggered by a complaint that Mayouna had been left alone at different times without adult supervision. CPS substantiated the complaint against Shropshire and another relative, but Mayouna was allowed to remain with her mother.

“CPS indicated the report on 7/11/13 against both mother and aunt; neither spoke to the other about the care of the subject child and both left the child home alone for at least two hours,” the report stated.

Probe continues

Amherst police are continuing their investigation.

Detective Lt. James McNamara and Detectives Jamie Doane and Cathy Onions are conducting more interviews in the hope of obtaining enough evidence to make an arrest in the slaying. Anyone with information is asked to contact them at 689-1360.

For a while, Allen said, she had given up hope that there would be an arrest. But she now has renewed optimism.

“Knowing that the Amherst Police Department is still working on it, that it’s not over,” the grandmother said, “is good news for me.”