A community memorial near the site of a vigil on July 6, 2023, to honor Wynter Cole-Smith whose body was discovered on Detroit’s east side. (Photo by Quinn Banks)

Federal authorities have charged the Detroit man accused in the abduction and death of 2-year-old Wynter Cole-Smith.

Rashad Maleek Trice, 26, is charged in a criminal complaint with kidnapping a minor and kidnapping resulting in death, according to a Friday statement by Mark Totten, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan.

Wynter Cole-Smith
Wynter Cole-Smith (FBI Detroit)

According to the complaint, authorities say Wynter appeared to be strangled with a pink cell phone charging cord recovered with her body this week in an alley on Detroit’s east side. A final medical examiner’s report on the cause of death remains pending. 

Trice is accused of first stabbing and assaulting the toddler’s 22-year-old mother in Lansing on July 2 and then taking off with Wynter, sparking an Amber Alert. Trice and the victim share a one-year-old son who was unharmed. Trice was apprehended and the Chevrolet Impala he’d been driving was recovered on July 3, but Wynter remained missing. Her body was found on the evening of July 5. 

“The allegations in this case are heart-wrenching,” Totten said in a Friday statement. “My thoughts are very much with Wynter’s family, as we were all praying for her safe return home.”

If convicted of kidnapping resulting in death, Trice faces life in prison. The offense is also death penalty eligible, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted in a Friday news release. The kidnapping of a minor offense carries a penalty of 20 years to life in prison. 

According to the criminal complaint, authorities tracked Trice’s phone from Lansing to Detroit. The complaint notes Trice told an FBI agent that he and the child’s mother had been arguing over money on July 2 before the attack ensued. 

Trice also admitted during the July 4 interview with the federal agent that he’d been aware of the Amber Alert and stated words to the effect of “I am already a monster,” according to the complaint.

Wynter’s mother, the former girlfriend of Trice, was released from the hospital earlier this week and continues to recover from her injuries.

Trice was arraigned Wednesday in 54-A District Court in Lansing on felony charges connected to the July 2 attack. Those counts include assault with intent to murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree home invasion, unlawful imprisonment, aggravated domestic violence, second offense, unlawful driving away of an automobile and assault with a dangerous weapon, according to the court’s criminal division.

Numerous law enforcement partners aided the FBI in the search for Wynter, which included door-to-door canvassing as well as K9, drone and dive team searches. 

On Friday, Devin Kowalski, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, urged the public in a statement to keep the child’s family “In your thoughts in the days and weeks to come.”

Rashad Maleek Trice
Rashad Maleek Trice. (Lansing Police Department)

Kowalski also extended appreciation to Lansing Police Department Chief Ellery Sosebee and the entire Lansing department, which assisted in the investigation, along with a vast network of law enforcement partners across the state and country.

On Thursday evening, Detroit Pastor Maurice “Mo” Hardwick led a vigil alongside heartbroken neighbors of the Detroit Airport Sub where Wynter’s body was found. Dozens gathered, including Wynter’s grandfather, for prayers and a balloon release. 

A second vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Friday at Knodel and Erwin, near First Church to the Redeemed, 9360 Van Dyke. 

Wynter’s grandfather, Almount Smith, told BridgeDetroit Thursday that his son, Almount Smith, Jr., and Wynter’s mother broke up around the time Wynter was born. The younger Smith moved to Tennessee to play football at the University of Tennessee at Martin, he said. 

“He worked so hard to get into college so he could get an education and play football and provide for him and his daughter,” the elder Smith said. 

“It’s very sad when a community has to come together for this,” he said during the vigil.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *