A man accused of killing a 13-year-old Valley girl has pleaded not guilty on charges of first-degree murder, arson and theft in connection with her death.
Tashawn Cheatham, 19, made his plea in Maricopa County Court on Thursday morning.
Police records show the victim's mother, Diana Rope, said Cheatham was homeless and a friend of her son's, who is currently in juvenile detention. Rope told police she allowed him to stay the night, but asked him to leave the next morning as she left for work.
Cheatham was alone in the home with the victim, Briana Naylor, on Dec. 6 after Rope and Briana's brothers had left the home, according to police.
According to court documents, Cheatham said he smoked "spice" in the mother's bedroom after Briana told him not to. He said she then asked him to kill her and that he and Briana strangled her with a sheet and then set the home on fire, court paperwork stated.
He told police he talked to a clerk at a nearby liquor store and told him what happened.
Detectives believe he is responsible for her death and that he also started the fires in the house. He is also being charged with theft because he stole the family dog and tried to sell it.
Cheatham is currently being held on a $1 million bond.
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