Four men arrested in death of Washington County girl, 10, in home invasion

To the tears and screams of horrified friends and family members, four men arrested in connection with the killing of a 10-year-old Washington, Pa., girl were led from the city police station Friday night to face charges of criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy, robbery, burglary and theft.

Washington police charged 28-year-old Anthian Goehring, 18-year-old Douglas Cochran Jr., 20-year-old Malik Thomas and 18-year-old Richard White, all of Washington, Pa., with the crimes in connection with Monday's shooting death of fourth-grader Ta'Naiyah Thomas during an attempted home invasion.

Washington police Lt. Dan Stanek said the four suspects planned to rob Ta'Naiyah's mother, Shantye Brown, and her mother's boyfriend, Robert Lester.

"They thought the occupants had money," Lt. Stanek said.

Ms. Brown has cooperated with the investigation and has been answering their questions, but investigators have not spoken with Mr. Lester since the incident and do not know where he is, Lt. Stanek said.

He said police are still investigating who fired the fatal shot that struck Ta'Naiyah in the head, killing her within minutes. At least one of the men was a distant cousin of the girl, he said, and all four men were known to the victim's family.

Shortly before 4 a.m., at least one person forced entry into her Chestnut Street apartment building, went upstairs and opened fire multiple times through the closed door of the apartment where Ta'Naiyah was staying with Ms. Brown, Mr. Lester and the couple's baby, police said.

The intruders did not get in, but investigators have said they believe the noise woke Ta'Naiyah and she was going to her mother's room when at least one bullet struck her. She died about 30 minutes later in the emergency room at Washington Hospital.

Police said Ms. Brown's 5-year-old son was next door at his grandparents' home at the time, and no one else was hurt.

As family members both of Ta'Naiyah and her alleged killers waited outside the police station for information about the arrests, they reacted in shock and dismay at hearing the names of the suspects and recognizing them as friends and relatives.

"I'm just baffled," said Ta'Naiyah's uncle, Ron Cox.

At hearing the names, a wild scene of heartbreak filled the street, with nearly everyone in tears and with several people crying out over and over. One woman began wailing in dismay, repeatedly crying, "No, no, oh God, no," while another collapsed in the street and finally was lead away, screaming, after the suspects were taken from the police station in cruisers to their arraignment.

"He's gone, he's gone forever, they took my [expletive] brother," the young woman cried. "I'm never going to see him again."

Nearby, the girl's father, Curtis Thomas Jr., said he was devastated by his death of his daughter and by the identity of her alleged killers. Each of them called him after they heard of Ta'Naiyah's death, he said, but he didn't pick up the phone.

He believes in God's justice, Mr. Thomas said, but if it were up to him, Ta'Naiyah's killers would lose their lives, just as they took hers.

"The people who did this to her will pay," he said.

But no matter what happens, he said, there is no good outcome to the tragedy of Ta'Naiyah's death.

"I'm thankful for my daughter to get justice, but no one wins in this," Mr. Thomas said. "No one wins."

Ta'Naiyah's funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today at Piatt and Barnhill Funeral Home in Washington with the Rev. Richard White officiating. Interment will follow in Washington Cemetery.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: First Published April 4, 2014 6:16 PM


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