PD: Suspect in Phoenix homicide, arson case says teen wanted to die

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by Jennifer Thomas

Video report by Steve Bodinet

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 2:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 13 at 10:22 AM

PHOENIX -- A 19-year-old man who was arrested in the death of a 13-year-old girl admitted to strangling her with a sheet and setting fire to her home, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.

Tashawn Trevon Cheatham was arrested on Saturday and booked into the Maricopa County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, arson and theft. His bond was set at $1 million.

Police said Cheatham killed Briana Naylor before setting several small fires inside her family's home Thursday morning.

Cheatham is a family friend and had attended a party that Briana's mother, Diana Rope, had Wednesday night and he was still in the home the next morning when Rope left for work and Briana's brothers went to school.

During an interview with police, Cheatham said Briana told him she no longer wanted to live and wanted him to kill her. She then wrapped a sheet around her neck and held one side of it while Cheatham held the other until she stopped moving, according to court documents.

Police said Cheatham went into Rope's bedroom and set her mattress on fire. He then set a fire in two other bedrooms and fled the home.

Phoenix firefighters responded to the fire at approximately 10 a.m. Briana was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Police said Cheatham stole the family dog and sold it at a nearby liquor store. Pictures of the dog were found on Cheatham's cellphone. Court records show police obtained surveillance videos of Cheatham holding a small puppy while getting on a bus at Camelback Road and Seventh Street and several minutes later going into a market at Camelback Road and 19th Avenue holding a small white dog with brown spots.

Police are asking anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of the dog, Marilyn, to call 602-262-6141 of Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS. 

Cheatham is due in court on Friday.
 

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