Man sentenced after killing 4-year-old girl with bear hug
Maryia Evans

By Glenn Counts, WSOC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- (WSOC) -- There is justice for a 4-year-old girl killed on Christmas Eve after her mother's boyfriend pleaded guilty Thursday at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

"I just want him to know that he still has to answer to somebody after this life," Mariya's mother Jenipher Fofana said.

Demarcus Heath gave Mariya a bear hug so tight it cracked her chest, damaging her aorta.

"(It’s) devastating, for the fact of, when he ran up he told me she was choking so I assumed she was choking," the mother said.

The incident occurred in the bathroom at a home on Timber Commons Lane near Monroe Road. Prosecutors said Mariya's last words were, “Are you Santa?”

That was when Heath grabbed her.

He was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison.

"This is closure in my life,” Fofana said. “Finally, I found out what happened with my kid -- 20 years, I don't think it's enough."

FULL STORY: Man sentenced after killing 4-year-old girl while giving bear hug - WSOC

From WCNC, March 3, 2017:

Mariya died from severe blunt force abdominal injuries, the autopsy report states. The girl also suffered blunt force head injuries.

Investigators ordered an autopsy to confirm a report that she choked on a toy. However, the exam report states there was no "airway obstruction identified."

The autopsy did reveal Mariya's life came to a violent end. Her injuries include separated spine, a torn aorta and laceration to her liver.

Demarcus Heath, the boyfriend of the child’s mother, was charged with the murder of Owens.

Investigators say Mariya's mother's boyfriend, Demarcus Heath, gave them the toy choking story, then tried to pin the child's death on her mother, before finally admitting to them he was behind brutal assault that killed the little girl.

FULL STORY: Autopsy: 4-year-old died from blunt force injuries - WCNC