VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) — On Friday, a man, previously arrested on unrelated charges, led his girlfriend and police to the body of a young child believed to be missing Virginia Beach baby, Janyiha Whiteman.
The baby’s mother, Marie Whiteman, says she left Janyiha in the care of her live-in boyfriend, Lawrence Ray Smith, in mid-September when she was jailed on a probation violation. Smith, she said, is not the baby’s biological father but he had been there since the baby’s birth and was like a father to her.
Officers found Smith early Friday who then led them to search a hotel parking garage where they found the child’s body. Police would not say how old the child was or in what condition the body was found, but they called off the search for Janyiha, HamptonRoads.com reports.
While the baby’s mom believes the baby they found is hers, police say it could take weeks to positively identify the body.
The child’s body was found on the fifth floor of the parking garage of the Country Inn & Suites on Atlantic Avenue. It was sent to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. Typically the body can be visually identified within a day or two. But in this case, the medical examiner could not visually confirm the child’s identity and will have to do DNA testing that could take several weeks, Officer Grazia Moyers, a police spokeswoman said.
Two weeks after she was jailed Marie’s family began telling her that Smith had people coming and going from their home, including prostitutes, ABC News 13 reports.
Mom attempts to protect her baby, state apparently failed her
It was reported that Marie filed three affidavits requesting her baby be placed in the care and custody of a family member after learning of the issues with people entering her home. But it was too late – before her pleas were heard, her baby was gone. Janyiha went missing October 1.
Medical examiners continue working to positively identify the body.
To her mother, it’s just a formality, she already knows her baby is gone. Medical examiners will work to determine the cause of death. Police say the case is being treated as a suspicious death.
On Thursday, Virginia Beach Police had sought the public’s help in locating the baby. Marie said she and Smith discussed the possibility of him needing help and said he agreed that if anything went wrong he would take the baby to someone to deal with the situation.
Police said Whiteman’s family had not heard from Smith since October 3. He was then seen earlier this week in the oceanfront area without the baby.
CNN reports Smith was arrested on unrelated felony charges while walking in the 200 block of Atlantic Avenue Friday around 3:30 p.m. Police spokesman Officer Jimmy Barnes said that within hours after his arrest the investigation led detectives to the location where they found the child’s body, about a mile down the street from the block where Smith was taken into custody.
Police say Smith is not currently facing charges in connection to Janyiha’s disappearance and possible death.
Whiteman told WAVY Thursday, “I miss her more than anything. That’s my heart. That’s my world. That’s my first kid and I really want her back.”
Janyiha’s case is now being investigated by the Virginia Beach Police Department’s homicide unit.
This story hits close to home for those who have been following the story of missing Missouri baby Lisa Irwin. The 10-month-old baby was reported missing October 4. Baby Lisa has not yet been found. Her parents say she was abducted from her crib sometime between 6:40 p.m. Oct. 3 and 4 a.m. Oct. 4. Click here for coverage on her story.
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