Sources: Detroit Police refused to pursue kidnap suspect after phone data showed whereabouts

Chief White calls claims of hindering search efforts 'absolutely false'


THURSDAY, July 6 — The search for Wynter Cole-Smith of Lansing was hampered when the Detroit Police Department refused a request from the Lansing Police Department to check out a location where cell phone data suggested the alleged kidnapper had been present,  an official close to the investigation said and others in local law enforcement corroborated.

The “ping” early Monday morning placed the suspect’s phone near the alley where the 2-year-old’s body was discovered last night in Detroit, some two-and-a-half days later, the source said.

“There’s a reason they were searching alleys in that area,” he added.

Late this afternoon, Detroit Police Chief James E. White called the accusation "absolutely false" and an "abject failure of investigative journalism."

"Instead of focusing on the heinous act of an individual in committing this horrific crime, this reporter chose to make this baseless accusation against a law enforcement agency whose members displayed their professional character by dedicating their entire summer to look for Zion Foster in a landfill last year," White said, referring to a Detroit-area teen homicide victim.

 "Let me make this clear, we most certainly extended that kind of Herculean effort in trying to find Wynter Cole-Smith, which is supported by clear documentation by the Detroit Police Department. I welcome any substantive facts to say otherwise," White added in a written statement.

The suspect, Rashad Maleek Trice, was arrested early Monday morning in St. Claire Shores, about 10 miles from where the child’s body was found. He has been arraigned in Lansing and is being held without bail on charges that include sexually assaulting the girl’s mother and kidnapping.

The source said police in Detroit police refused to act on the location data because Ingham County had not yet issued a warrant for Trice’s arrest. Detroit Police Department policy prohibits the department from acting on information on a criminal suspect from another agency without a warrant, he said.

The refusal came despite a statewide Amber Alert that identified Trice and that he was driving a white Chevy Malibu allegedly stolen from the toddler’s mother.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive and ongoing investigation.

The refusal to act contributed to an agonizing and frantic 36-hour search for the toddler’s body, the source said.

Law enforcement used an investigative tool called a cellphone ping to locate Trice. The technique sends an electronic message to the phone, and the phone answers back through the cellular network, giving law enforcement the phone’s location. The subject of a ping is unaware the communication is occurring.

DPD officials referred questions to the Detroit Field Office of the FBI.

The Detroit Field Office of the FBI declined to answer questions about DPD’s actions but sent a link to a Facebook Live press conference from last night. The FBI in Detroit announced the discovery of the child’s body during the broadcast. During that press conference, the unidentified agent said evidence gathered in the case led officials to search the alleys and streets around where Smith’s body was found.

Officials from Lansing Police and other agencies also searched for the child near US-127 and Interstate 96 yesterday.

The FBI is now leading the investigation.

Trice was charged yesterday in 54-A District Court with assault with intent to murder, two counts of criminal sexual conduct first degree, home invasion 1st degree, unlawful imprisonment, aggravated domestic violence second offense, unlawful driving away of an automobile and felonious assault, as well as being a fourth-time habitual offender.

Trice allegedly visited his ex-girlfriend in Lansing, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her multiple times on Sunday. She escaped his attack and fled to a neighbor to call the police at about 11:15 p.m. When law enforcement responded at about 11:30 p.m., they found Smith was missing. Her 1-year-old brother was unharmed and alone in the apartment where the attack occurred, authorities said.


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