TOPEKA (KSNT) – Charges filed against a Topeka man accused of raping and murdering a five-year-old girl could carry a serious, and rarely used, punishment in Kansas.

On Thursday, Oct. 5, the Shawnee County District Attorney filed charges, including capital murder, against 25-year-old Mickel Cherry. The charges stem from Cherry’s alleged actions that led to the death of Zoey Felix on Oct. 2.

The charge of capital murder brings with it the possibility Cherry could face the death penalty in Kansas if he is found guilty, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC).

The Death Penalty in Kansas

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death penalty laws in 40 states across the country, according to the KDOC. Kansas was included in this list but in 1994 the Legislature enacted a death penalty law which took effect on July 1 that year.

Kansas law dictates the death penalty must be carried out by lethal injection. This is a sentencing option for offenders who are over the age of 18, according to the KDOC. However, those convicted of capital murder can be instead sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 25 years to parole eligibility.

Men convicted of capital murder are usually housed in the El Dorado Correctional Facility, according to the KDOC, while women are housed in the Topeka Correctional Facility. As of 2020, Kansas had 10 inmates convicted of capital punishment, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). An execution hasn’t been carried out since 1965 in Kansas.

Mickel Cherry Charges

Cherry is currently in custody at the Shawnee County Department of Corrections on a $2 million bond, according to the Shawnee County DA’s Office.

His charges include the following:

  • Capital murder – commission of rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and/or criminal sodomy
  • Murder in the first degree; inherently dangerous felony
  • Rape; child under 14, offender 18 or over

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has not said if he will seek the death penalty for Cherry, according to a report from The Associated Press (AP).

Death of Zoey Felix

Topeka police received a medical call at 5:55 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2 to the Dillons Gas Station located at 2010 SE 29th St., according to the Shawnee County DA’s Office. Police arriving at the scene found the Topeka Fire Department rendering aid to a five-year-old girl, later identified by police at Zoey Felix, who was then taken to a local hospital. She was pronounced dead at 6:39 p.m. that night.

An examination of Felix’s body revealed she had suffered injuries related to sexual assault, according to the Shawnee County DA’s Office. Cherry was identified by investigators as a suspect in the case and arrested on Oct. 3.

Police visited Felix a month before her death in October. City of Topeka spokeswoman Gretchen Spiker said Felix appeared to be “in good spirits” when officers conducted the welfare check.

Nearing Homicide Record

Felix’s death marks the 26th homicide investigation for Topeka in 2023. Topeka’s all-time highest number of recorded murders was set in 2017 at 30.

In an interview with KSNT 27 News, TPD Police Chief Bryan Wheeles said he was concerned with the growing number of reported murders in Topeka this year.

“I am very concerned about the level of homicides because we are coming off of two years where we had kind bucked the national trend and been down,” Wheeles told a reporter on Oct. 3. “And that was a product of the tremendous work of the brave men and women of the police department out on the streets, and I was very proud of that. I am concerned about this, but we have to continue to keep working.”  

If you have any information regarding the investigation email or contact the Topeka Police Criminal Investigation Bureau at 785-234-0007. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Shawnee County Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007 or online by clicking here.

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