TOPEKA, KS – Mickel Cherry, a 25-year-old homeless man, was arraigned on Thursday on charges of murder and rape linked to the death of a 5-year-old girl named Zoey Felix in Topeka, Kansas. Cherry is facing one count each of capital murder, first-degree murder, and rape in connection with Zoey’s death on Monday. He is currently detained in Topeka with a $2 million bond, and his subsequent court date is yet to be scheduled.
Mark Manna, from the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, confirmed that his office would be representing Cherry, but declined to comment further. Attempts to reach Cherry’s family for comments were unsuccessful. The capital murder charge against Cherry could potentially lead to the death penalty, but Shawnee County prosecutor Michael Kagay has not yet disclosed his intentions.
According to a statement by Kagay, Topeka police were called to a local gas station where fire crews were trying to save Zoey’s life. Unfortunately, she was later pronounced dead at the hospital. A post-mortem examination revealed injuries indicative of sexual assault.
Details surrounding the exact cause of Zoey’s death have not been released by the authorities. Timothy Phelps, deputy director of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections, confirmed that Cherry and Zoey previously shared an address, but at the time of his arrest, Cherry was homeless.
Cherry has no prior criminal record in Kansas, although he has a misdemeanor criminal trespass conviction in Amarillo, Texas. A memorial of flowers, balloons, heartfelt signs, and toys has been set up in Topeka in honor of Zoey Felix.
Concerns had been raised by neighbors regarding the lack of electricity in Zoey’s family home, leading to calls to the police and child welfare. Topeka police confirmed three calls to the home in September, one for a welfare check due to the lack of electricity and two for domestic disturbances.
City spokeswoman Gretchen Spiker stated that during the first call, officers confirmed the lack of electricity and were informed that the child was not living there. The city initially moved to condemn the house but reversed the decision when the utilities were restored.
Near the home, a tent and a tarp were found set up in the woods, leading neighbors to suspect that Zoey, Cherry, and Zoey’s father may have been living there. This, however, has not been confirmed by the police.