Case Files: The search for the person who killed 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan

The coroner says someone buried the child alive and left her encased in cement along the River Raisin
13abc Action News at 4PM VOD recording.
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 10:47 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It was Memorial Day weekend, May 24, 2009. Nevaeh Buchanan was playing at the former Charlotte Arms apartments on N. Maccomb Street in Monroe, Michigan. She lived in the complex with her grandmother and her mother, Jennifer. According to police reports, Nevaeh was outside playing. When her mother went out to the parking lot, she was gone.

It was the last time the child was reportedly seen alive. The 5-year-old’s disappearance immediately sparked a police response and shortly after, an Amber Alert was issued. Monroe became part of the national spotlight. Every day hundreds of volunteers would show up looking for any sign of the little girl.

After 11 days of searching, interviews with Nancy Grace and countless local news reports, there was a break in the case. Fisherman found the 5-year-old’s body encased in cement down an embankment off Dixon Road. It was a fishing spot along the bank of the River Raisin. The spot where the child was found was 12 miles from the apartment complex where Nevaeh lived. A coroner’s report revealed that Nevaeh was buried alive.

“When you think about it it had to be a grown person. Where she was down that embankment, there’s no way a younger kid did that, it had to be a grown person that put her there. I have a hard time believing one person did it.,” says Risa Smith.

Smith is a relative of Nevaeh. She spearheaded search efforts in the beginning and has worked for more than a decade to keep the case alive, with the group “Justice for Nevaeh.”

Smith remembers Memorial Day weekend 2009 like it was yesterday.

“This is with me for the rest of my life. Even after 13 years, I get choked up,” says Smith.

There have been some twists and turns in the case and plenty of rumors over the years, but the murder is still unsolved. Whoever buried the little girl alive could still be out there.

“I I ask myself all the time, did they wake up have a bad day? What was going through their minds- how could they have done this? What were they thinking? I mean did she cry, did they beg them to stop? That person has to live with that and it just blows my mind to think someone could live with that,” says Smith.

13abc reached out to the Monroe County Sheriff’s department for an update on the case. Sheriff Troy Goodnough did not grant our request for an on-camera interview citing a very active case but did send a full statement outlining what is happening in the search for Nevaeh Buchanan’s killer.

If you have any information about the murder of Nevaeh Buchanan, you can contact the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (734) 240-7400 or Crimestoppers of Michigan 1-800-SPEAKUp or email a tip.

You could be eligible for a $2,500 reward. If you have a case that needs attention email

Letter from the Monroe County Sheriff
Letter from the Monroe County Sheriff(WTVG)

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