Baltimore police arrested a 17-year-old yesterday and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found strangled and set on fire in the basement of her West Baltimore home.
In addition to murder, Jamal Amin Jackson of the 1200 block of Ashburton St. was charged as an adult with first-degree rape in the death of Natishia Moore, who was killed in the early hours of March 5.
"I prayed for them to find the right person and not just make an arrest. I think they did," Annette Watson, Natishia's mother, said yesterday. "The police were excellent, very professional."
Armed with a search and seizure warrant, members of the city homicide unit and U.S. marshals arrested the Jackson youth about 5:30 a.m. at the Ashburton Street address, a two-story brick rowhouse where he lives with his mother.
Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman, said the teen-ager had an outstanding juvenile warrant against him and had recently become a suspect in the girl's death. After questioning yesterday morning by detectives, he was charged with murder and rape.
The youth was taken to the Central District lockup pending a bail hearing today by a court commissioner.
Natishia's body was found Sunday in the dank basement of a rowhouse in the 2800 block of Rayner Ave. where she lived with her mother, brother and sister.
Mr. Weinhold said she died between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., apparently after letting the suspect into the house. Natishia was raped and strangled, and her clothes were set on fire, severely charring her upper body. The suspect fled through a basement door, police said.
Police and relatives of the victim said the suspect and Natishia, a sixth-grade student at nearby Calverton Middle School, were little more than acquaintances.
The two lived less than half a mile apart in the neighborhood in the shadows of the old Lutheran Hospital.
Ms. Watson said her daughter never mentioned the suspect but that his telephone number was found recently in Natishia's diary.
Michael Singletary Jr., a friend of the family, said the suspect was in the crowd that gathered outside of the house soon after Natishia's body was discovered.
Since Natishia's death, Ms. Watson and her children -- Christopher, 10, and Shanice, 6 -- have moved from the house where they had lived for five months and now live with relatives nearby.
Christopher found Natishia's body, Ms. Watson said.
"It's hard for him, so we left," Ms. Watson said. "It was best that we left. We aren't completely gone, but we won't go back."
Ms. Watson said she is relieved by the arrest but saddened that someone so young is a suspect.
"It just shows what happens when Satan gets a hold of you," she said. "Maybe later I'll ask what happened and how it happened. But Tisha's memories will always live."