A 25-year-old homeless man has been charged in connection with the rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl in Kansas. Mickel Cherry is facing one count of capital murder, one count of first-degree murder, and one count of rape in the death of Zoey Felix, who died despite efforts by firefighters to save her life in a gas station parking lot. Cherry is currently in jail in Topeka on a $2 million bond, and his next court appearance is pending.
Shawnee County District Attorney Michael Kagay stated that a decision about seeking the death penalty would be made after a preliminary hearing to determine whether Cherry would stand trial, as is customary in capital cases. The Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit confirmed they would represent Cherry.
Authorities have not disclosed the cause of Zoey’s death, but former neighbors of the girl and her family believed that she, her father, and Cherry had been living in a wooded area near the gas station for the past few weeks. Kagay revealed that a medical examination at the hospital indicated injuries consistent with sexual assault.
Cherry has no criminal record in Kansas, but he does have a misdemeanor criminal trespass conviction in Amarillo, Texas. Neighbors had reportedly raised concerns about Zoey’s family home having no electricity and had contacted the police and child welfare services.
Topeka police confirmed they had made three visits to the home in September, including a welfare check due to the lack of electricity and two domestic disturbance calls. The city had initiated condemnation proceedings against the house, but they were dropped when utilities were restored. Neighbors noted that everyone had moved out of the house except for Zoey’s mother.
Zoey’s father worked at the gas station where she was found, and a makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons, and toys was created near the site.