Monroe— It’s been five years since Nevaeh Buchanan disappeared from outside her apartment building. Five years since her body was found buried under concrete on the banks of the River Raisin. And for the family members and friends who mourned her death, it hasn’t gotten any easier.
“We as a community, we need to get mad. This is five years now, five years too long,” Carla Nash told a crowd at a memorial for her granddaughter on Saturday at St. Mary’s Park in downtown Monroe.
“We need justice,” she said.
Dozens of people, including many who were part of the original search party, gathered at the park to launch balloons in Nevaeh’s honor, speak about their memories of her and make sure her story is not forgotten.
Making it even harder for them is that local media in Monroe reported this week that police know who the killer is, but don’t have enough evidence to convict him. Other reports said her killer is already in prison on an unrelated felony charge.
Risa Smith, a distant cousin of Nevaeh who organized the memorial, said she was particularly distressed by the latest reports.
“She was a sweet, energetic 5-year-old who was taken from us by some selfish (expletive) who felt it was OK to play God,” said Smith. “Where is the justice in that for Nevaeh?”
Nevaeh was 5 years-old when she was last seen the night of May 24, 2009 playing on her scooter in the parking lot of the Charlotte Arms apartment complex, where she lived with her mother and grandmother. The search for the missing girl made national headlines.
On June 4, 2009, Nevaeh's body was found about 10 milesfrom her home by two fishermen who spotted skin beneath freshly poured concrete near the River Raisin. An autopsy later revealed that the girl had dirt in her lungs, meaning she likely was buried alive.
Police have named no suspects in the case. Shortly after Nevaeh disappeared, detectives characterized two convicted sex offenders, George Kennedy and Roy Lee Smith, as persons of interest. Both men remain in prison for parole violations, although police say they have cleared both men of any wrongdoing.
Her mother Jennifer, who wasn’t at the event, has also been cleared. She faced a backlash after her daughter went missing and comments about her parenting abilities.
Nash told the crowd to stop focusing on any shortcomings.
“We have all played the blame game. We’ve blamed Jennifer, we’ve blamed Jennifer’s family,” she said. “But I don’t care about that. I care about justice for Nevaeh.”
The case remains under investigation and a $50,000 reward is being offered.
Smith asked everyone to put up posters and to continue to tell Navaeh’s story.
“It’s always been my philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child,” said Smith. “It’s also going to take a village to bring this child justice.”