Suspected killer of 1-year-old baby Malijha Grant goes on trial
KENT, Wash. - Malijha Grant had survived open-heart surgeries at three days old and three months old.
But after she was shot in the head while sleeping in the back of her parents' car in 2015 during a drive-by shooting in Kent, she lived three days before succumbing to her injury.
A trial that began Monday at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent will determine whether one man killed Malijha, but his defense attorneys offer two other alternatives they believe fired the shots.
DeMartrae Kime, 26, is charged with second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault.
At the heart of the case is a rivalry between two gangs based in Seattle's Central District: Low Profile, Kime's gang, and Deuce 8, the gang to which Malijha's father belonged.
In January 2015, Kime was shot and hospitalized for several days at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle. He believed Deuce 8 was involved, according to prosecutors' trial memorandum.
In March, a beloved Low Profile member, John Williams, was shot at the same location and died three days later. After that, Low Profile members reportedly vowed deliver retribution against Deuce 8 for Williams' death, prosecutors contend. It was that mission they say killed Malijha.
Williams' slaying "plunged the defendant into grief and a great desire to avenge John's death," Senior Deputy Prosecutor Adrienne McCoy said during her opening statement.
Malijha and her parents were fired upon as they were headed home on Lake Fenwick Road near Reith Road on April 16, 2015, police reports indicate. Someone in a dark blue sedan fired at them from behind. After Malijha's mom accelerated the car and drove onto a curb, the sedan pulled up beside them and fired additional shots, including the one that proved fatal to the baby. Eight shots were fired in total.
Kime is captured on surveillance footage driving a girlfriend's car in the area of a Safeway where the family had stopped, and his cell phone pinged off towers tracking the path Malijha's family would have taken, prosecutors argue. He also filmed himself in the car, rapping about Deuce 8.
He later returned his girlfriend's car to her shortly after the shooting, "wiped down" as if to hide any evidence of involvement with the incident, prosecutors say. Prosecutors also pointed to conversations people claimed to have had with Kime about Malijha's death in which he declined to confirm or deny his involvement.
Kime was later arrested on a firearms warrant in Portland, Ore., but while in jail, was charged with Malijha's murder in December 2015.
But Kime's defense attorneys, Todd Maybrown and Lisa Mulligan, offered two other options for who could have been the killer.
The first was a boy who was 15 years old at the time and allegedly bragged about killing the baby after the shooting. He also reportedly fired shots in the Central District the day before the baby's death with a weapon that experts claimed was the same one used to shoot at Malijha's father.
One acquaintance claims the teen said, "I think I killed a baby," the day of the shooting.
The other possible culprit, defense attorneys say, is a man who was closed friends with Williams and flew from his home in North Carolina to stay with Williams' family after his death. The defense memorandum claims that this man made conflicting statements about his whereabouts at the time of the murder and made attempts to set his story straight with others he thought might be interviewed by police.
Mulligan argued Monday that police built their case around a coincidence: that a car similar to that of Kime's girlfriend was spotted on a surveillance camera leaving the area of the shooting immediately after it occurred, when it could have turned a different way to avoid being captured on the footage.
"'Maybe' is not enough to convict someone with murder," Mulligan said.
Attorneys expect the trial to last six to eight weeks.
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