Feds indict man accused in Wynter Cole Smith’s kidnapping, death

The man accused of kidnapping and strangling 2-year-old Wynter Cole Smith has been indicted in the case, federal officials announced Tuesday.

Rashad Maleek Trice has already been charged with kidnapping of a minor and kidnapping causing death in a criminal complaint on July 7 to secure his detention.

“Today’s action satisfies the defendant’s constitutional right to federal indictment by a grand jury,” said the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan in a statement.

If convicted of kidnapping resulting in death, the 26-year-old faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison and is eligible for the death penalty, according to the release.

The statutory mandatory minimum sentence for the second count, kidnapping of a minor, is 20 years in prison with a maximum possible sentence of life in prison, officials wrote.

“This indictment marks another step forward as we seek a measure of justice following the heartbreaking loss of Wynter Cole-Smith,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “My thoughts are deeply with Wynter’s family, and my office is fully prepared to make our case against Mr. Trice at a fair trial.”

The Michigan Constitution bans the death penalty, leaving federal prosecution as the only way for a Michigan resident to be executed, as Anthony Chebatoris was in 1938. Chebatoris is the only person who has been executed in the state since 1938.

Former Detroit U.S. attorneys Barbara McQuade and Matthew Schneider have said the decision will be up to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland whether to seek the death penalty if Trice is convicted. No federal executions are being pursued because Garland imposed a moratorium on the federal death penalty in July 2021 and ordered the Department of Justice to review federal policies and procedures.

An arraignment and a pretrial conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 7 before Magistrate Judge Ray Kent.

“There is no greater responsibility for the FBI than to investigate those who commit senseless acts of violence against young children,” said Devin Kowalski, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “While today’s indictment cannot erase the pain her family is experiencing, it is the next step in the process of securing justice for Wynter.”

Trice is accused of stabbing and sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend in Lansing on July 2 then driving away with Wynter, her daughter.

Federal prosecutors have argued Trice abducted Wynter and fled as “retaliation” for a fight between him and her mother. A 1-year-old also was at the scene at the time, authorities said.

Authorities allege Trice strangled Wynter with a phone cord and left her in a Detroit alley before trying to flee police in St. Clair Shores. He was arrested early on July 3.

An Amber Alert was issued when Wynter couldn’t be found, spurring an extensive search involving multiple agencies.

Trice initially refused to tell police where Wynter was and denied kidnapping her. Police used cellphone location data to trace him, which led them to the girl’s body July 5.

On Friday, Attorney General Dana Nessel filed homicide charges against Trice. Trice, who has been housed at the Newaygo County Jail, initially faced charges in different counties before Nessel reached an agreement with county prosecutors to consolidate the cases in Lansing. The single prosecution streamlines the process and makes it easier for family, law enforcement and witnesses to participate in the proceedings.

Nessel filed 18 additional charges against Trice on Friday, including assault with intent to murder; first-degree criminal sexual conduct; kidnapping; home invasion; disarming a police officer; second-degree fleeing and eluding; receiving and concealing stolen property; unlawfully driving away an automobile; assault with a dangerous weapon; resisting and obstructing; second-degree domestic violence; and stalking.

Trice is charged as a fourth offense habitual offender.

“Because the state and federal governments are separate sovereigns, with their own sets of criminal statutes, charges in each criminal justice system is permitted,” McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Law, told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “I imagine the two offices are communicating with each other to coordinate and to avoid duplicating or disrupting each other’s efforts, but I can imagine that there is a state interest here in prosecuting a murder charge and a federal interest in prosecuting a kidnapping resulting in death.”

Charges formerly filed by Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane and Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido were set to be withdrawn in lieu of the prosecution Nessel’s office is leading.

Trice has a violent criminal past that includes domestic violence, assault, and resisting and obstructing police in at least five Michigan counties, court records show.


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