It was around 6:00 pm on Sunday, May 24, 2009, and 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan was bored. Hoping to find someone to play with, she asked her mother, Jennifer, if she could go visit one of her friends who lived in the same Monroe, Michigan apartment building. Jennifer, who was watching television at the time, barely looked up as she gave her daughter permission to go over to her friend’s place; the friend lived just seconds away and Nevaeh was always running back and forth between the two apartments.
There was a knock on the apartment door about 20 minutes after Nevaeh had left. There was Jennifer. She saw another child who lived in the apartment building when she opened the door. Jennifer called the girl a spy because she told her that Nevaeh was riding her scooter on the road, which Jennifer knew she wasn’t supposed to do. Jenn told the kid that she would look after it.
Jennifer took a little while to get to the back door of the apartment building after putting on her shoes. She looked all over the back parking lot for her daughter, Nevaeh, but neither she nor her scooter were there. Jennifer looked at the playground at a nearby school because she planned to put Nevaeh in time-out when she found her, but the little girl wasn’t there either.
Jennifer thought Nevaeh had already gone back inside, so she drove around for 45 minutes knocking on apartment doors to look for her daughter. It was clear right away that no one in the neighborhood had seen the 5-year-old. Jennifer went back outside and started walking around the complex as she became more worried. She found Nevaeh’s purple and green scooter as she turned a corner in her apartment building, but Nevaeh was nowhere to be found. Jennifer called the Monroe Police Department and said her daughter was missing because she thought the worst might happen. That’s when she called her mom, Sherry, who was just leaving work for the night. In a panic, Sherry ran home faster than the police could catch her.
Nevaeh lived with her mother and grandmother in the Charlotte Arms apartment building. Her father, Shane Hinojosa, lived in Toledo, Ohio, and wasn’t very important in her life. She hadn’t seen him in a long time. Nevaeh had just graduated from preschool three days before. She was excited about the summer and hanging out with her friends.
The little girl was shy, according to her neighbors, and she liked to stay close to her friends rather than going off on her own. She had a soft voice and didn’t trust people she didn’t know. It was impossible for her to have agreed to go out with a stranger.
The police responded right away to the report of a missing child. There were dozens of police officers and a small army of volunteers searching the wooded area around the apartment complex, and investigators went door-to-door searching each apartment. When detectives told reporters that they didn’t know where Nevaeh was for hours, they said they thought the little girl was in grave danger.
A neighbor told the police that she had seen Nevaeh riding her scooter with two other kids while she was on her balcony after 6 p.m. Her friend then went inside for a while. When she came back outside, she saw Nevaeh’s scooter by the building, but there was no sign of her. After a short time, she heard Jennifer calling for her daughter. Before that, she hadn’t heard anything. Her story backed up Jennifer’s version of what happened, but it didn’t help much in the search for the missing child.
The next day was Memorial Day, and a lot of people skipped their holiday plans to help look for the girl who went missing. The police thought that Nevaeh had been taken because she was so young and had never been the type of child to wander far from home. Because of this, the local police asked the FBI and the Michigan State Police for help.
Shane Hinojosa hadn’t seen his daughter in years, so hearing that she was missing made him very sad. He flew from Ohio to Michigan to help with the search. He set up his tent next to Nevaeh’s apartment building and told the press that he was going to stay there until his daughter was found.
The search went on all day Tuesday, and by the end of the day, police had checked all 180 apartments in the complex but still couldn’t find Nevaeh. Police and volunteers searched in nearby neighborhoods, but detectives thought the person who took the girl might be much closer to home.
Detectives learned during their first investigation that Jennifer, who was 24 years old, had been seeing 39-year-old George Kennedy, who was a registered sex offender on parole at the time. He wasn’t allowed to be alone with or near children while he was on parole, and he also couldn’t be romantically involved with anyone who had a child. He was arrested on Monday for breaking these rules, but they didn’t say that he was a suspect in Nevaeh’s disappearance.
Jennifer agreed to take a polygraph test on Tuesday when she was asked to. After the fact, she told reporters that she had failed one question, but she said it was because she hadn’t slept enough and thought the police were holding her against her will. “I wanted to go look for my daughter out there.” I know they need to see me, but I have no idea where she is.
It was confirmed that Jennifer had failed at least one polygraph question, but it was not said that she was being held against her will. They said she agreed to take the test on her own free will and knew she could leave at any time since she wasn’t being held against her will. Police also said that a man who had been convicted of sex crimes had failed a polygraph. They wouldn’t say who this man was, but it was thought to be George.
Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield said on Wednesday that they had two people of interest in the case but had not yet made any arrests. Both were convicted sex offenders. One was George Kennedy, and the other was Roy Smith, 48, who was friends with both Jennifer and George. While the investigation into Nevaeh’s disappearance went on, both men were being held in jail for violating their parole.
The fact that Jennifer let two convicted sex offenders be close to her daughter made people very angry, and they quickly blamed her for the 5-year-old’s disappearance. Jennifer didn’t say sorry. Her words showed that she knew George was a known sex offender but believed in giving people a second chance. She told him that having her daughter around him wasn’t wrong, but she said she had never left Nevaeh alone with George.
Jennifer and George met at their parole office in 2007. Jennifer had just gotten out of prison after 11 months for breaking into homes to pay for her drug habit. Nevaeh’s mother, Sherry, took care of her while Jennifer was in jail and was still legally her guardian when she went missing. It was clear that Jennifer had done a lot to change her life. She was off drugs and determined to never go back to prison, but she had bad taste in men.
As the police continued their search, they found that Nevaeh’s two friends were probably the last people to see her before she was taken. The six- and eight-year-olds told police that Nevaeh had been riding bikes with them in the apartment building parking lot around 6:30 pm. After that, it wasn’t clear what exactly happened.
Police said the 6-year-old saw Nevaeh going into the woods to meet “Daddy George,” which is Nevaeh’s name for George Kennedy. This 8-year-old girl said that Nevaeh had been taken by an unknown “bad man” who then stabbed her in the stomach. The child said he tried to help Nevaeh but couldn’t. He couldn’t give any other information, and detectives weren’t sure if the kids had seen anything real or were just upset about Nevaeh’s disappearance and making up stories about what might have happened to her.
Investigators searched the hotel room where George had been staying before he was arrested on Wednesday. Some things, like a pair of shorts and a towel that was stained with blood, were kept as evidence and sent to the crime lab to be tested further. Pictures of a girl who looked a lot like Nevaeh were also found, as well as what looked like bloodstains on one of the walls. It was a scary discovery.
Roy Smith owned the van George usually drove, and it was also searched. In the glove compartment, a bloody multi-tool was found. This was also sent to the crime lab to be looked at.
By Thursday, not much progress had been made in finding Nevaeh. The town of Monroe was quickly losing hope that the little girl would be found alive, even though police said they had no proof that she was dead. A lot of people came to help with the search on Friday—more than 500—but it was clear that most of them were looking for a body, not a child who was still alive.
As Friday came to a close, police learned that the blood they found on the multi-tool and in George’s hotel room did not belong to Nevaeh. The news made them feel a lot of different things. This gave them new hope that the missing girl might still be alive, but it also made them worry. That hurt the case they were making against George. From the beginning, they were interested in him. The thought that he might not be involved hurt the investigation.
On Saturday night, more than 200 people gathered in the parking lot of the Charlotte Arms apartments to pray for Nevaeh by candlelight. While people in the community prayed, detectives worked harder to find people who might have seen Nevaeh in the minutes before she disappeared. There were some kids at the Hollywood Elementary School playground that night, but none of them remembered seeing anything strange.
As the tenth day of the investigation began, it looked like it might stop moving forward. After following up on more than 800 tips, detectives had not found any solid leads. They talked to everyone who lived in the Charlotte Arms apartment complex and who regularly went through it, like mail carriers, delivery drivers, and ice cream truck companies. There was nothing that helped them get closer to Nevaeh.
The sad end of the search came the next day, when a father and son were fishing on the banks of the River Raisin and found something horrible. One of the men thought that the riverbank beneath him seemed to be crumbling. When he looked more closely, he saw that he was standing on a hole filled with cement. When he dug around in the dirt, he smelled something awful and was horrified to see what looked like human flesh under the crumbling concrete. The two men ran away and called the police.
Investigators went to the riverbank right away and quickly put up a rope to mark the area as a crime scene. The makeshift grave was found in Raisinville Township, only 12 miles from the last place Nevaeh was seen. It took them almost 10 hours to dig it up. Police were sure they had found Nevaeh, even though it would be some time before the body was officially identified. In the morning of June 9, the medical examiner confirmed their worst fears.
Nevaeh was buried face-down in a shallow grave. Her k*iller spread fast-drying cement mix over her body after putting it in the ground. The medical examiner found that she was probably buried there soon after being kidnapped, and because she was already dead, it wasn’t clear what caused her death at first. There were no obvious signs of trauma on her body, which ruled out being shot or stabbed. Of course, there were no signs of a sexual assault either.
When the autopsy was over, the medical examiner said that Nevaeh had died of suffocation from breathing in dirt. The dirt that was found in her lungs showed that she had not died quickly; she had fought hard to stay alive. The medical examiner thought it was most likely that she had been buried alive, though it was possible that someone had ki*lled her by pressing her face into the ground and holding it there. It was a terrible idea.
Monroe as a whole was sad about the 5-year-old girl’s death and how she was ki*lled, and when her funeral came around, everyone came together as a community. People gave a lot of money because they wanted to give the little girl the best possible farewell. Someone gave a Harley Davidson hearse to carry Nevaeh’s body after hearing how much she loved motorcycles. She had even named her favorite stuffed dog Harley. The funeral and burial for her were paid for by donations.
Over 800 people came to see Nevaeh at her visitation. Her beloved stuffed beagle was sitting on top of her small white casket. A lot of motorcycle clubs showed up to take part in her funeral procession, which was over a mile long. The procession went off-route to see two of Nevaeh’s favorite places to play on the way to the cemetery.
Investigators called all the nearby home improvement and building supply stores to try to find out who might have bought the cement that was used to bury Nevaeh’s body. They reached a dead end, which was a shame.
Detectives were still very interested in George Kennedy, but they couldn’t find any proof that he was involved with the crime. They didn’t want to get too focused on one person, so they kept looking into everyone who might have seen Nevaeh the night she was taken.
It was two months after Nevaeh’s body was found that police searched her apartment building. While Neveah was being buried, some fibers were found under her nails. It’s likely that they took samples from different carpets in the building to see if they were the same as the ones the medical examiner found. If they discovered anything important, they kept it from the public.
Sherry moved out of the Charlotte Arms apartment complex a few months after the mu*rder and into a mobile home with her sister. Being in that apartment with all the good times she had with her granddaughter made it hard for her to deal with the fact that she would never see her again.
The case stopped being newsworthy very quickly. Even though there was a reward for information that was raised several times, none of the tips that were called in helped solve the case. When the crime happened three years ago, the police said they were almost ready to make an arrest, but it never happened. In 2016, a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office representative said that they did have a suspect in the case but would not name him. However, they said that he was already in jail on separate charges, so he wasn’t a threat to the public while they built a case against him.
In the past few years, there have been no major developments in the case. However, officials maintain that it is not a “cold case” and they are still working on it. In 2021, they sent case evidence to the FBI to be looked at more closely using new technology that wasn’t available during the first investigation. It’s possible that these new tests will finally reveal who the ki*ller is.
Nevaeh Buchanan was k*illed very badly in 2009 when she was only 5 years old. She was shy and a bit of a tomboy. She loved motorcycles and had so many stuffed animals that they covered her bed. This little girl had just graduated from preschool three days before she was k*illed. When her name was called, she ran across the stage to grab her diploma, full of hope, promise, and dreams. A kil*ler took everything from her and has been able to stay out of jail for more than 13 years. Police think that someone knows who k*illed Neveah and are waiting for that person to come forward so that Neveah can finally get justice. If you know anything about how Nevaeh was ki*lled, please call 734–240–7000.