Man accused of killing 4-year-old girl on Christmas Eve given public defender

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested a Charlotte man Tuesday morning after they said he killed a 4-year-old girl on Christmas Eve.

Demarcus Heath, 26, was charged with the slaying of Mariya Owens.

Officers were called to Timber Commons Lane near Monroe Road in southeast Charlotte and found the 4-year-old girl unresponsive. She was taken to Novant Health Matthews Medical Center where she died.

According to the police report, Mariya choked on an unknown object, but family members told Channel 9 that Heath made that story up.

The medical examiner determined that the girl had been physically assaulted, which led to her death.

Heath was interviewed by homicide detectives Tuesday morning, and at the end of the interview he was charged with murder. Heath made his first court appearance Wednesday. He's being held in jail without bond and has been appointed a public defender.

Heath is the boyfriend of the girl's mother.

Mariya's aunt, Antrinette Pharr, told Channel 9 that Heath had no business being around the 4-year-old.

Pharr said she had been the former guardian of Mariya until this past fall, when a judge granted custody to her biological mother.

Pharr wants to see her held accountable

"I am going to make sure justice is served," she said. "I feel like she let the kids down. She let me down and basically caused a lot of pain and suffering in our lives."

Anyone with additional information about the crime is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a homicide unit detective. The public can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

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