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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 1, 1995
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: October 28, 1965
Victim profile: Jakiyah McClain, 8
Method of murder: Asphyxiation
Location: Essex County, New Jersey, USA
Status: Sentenced to life without parole on the murder charge, and a consecutive fifty-year term and twenty-five-year parole disqualifier for the kidnapping on February 9, 1998

Rasheed Muhammad kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered eight-year-old Jakiyah McClain. The victim went to her friend's apartment building to play. Her friend saw her enter the building with Muhammad, and then heard kicking, banging, and screaming upstairs.

The next day, police spoke with the building superintendent who said that he had given Muhammad permission to stay in an abandoned apartment in the building. Police knocked on Muhammad's door, and he invited them in. Police found the victim's body under a pile of clothes in a closet. An autopsy revealed that the victim had been sexually assaulted and died of asphyxiation.

The jury convicted Muhammad of purposeful-or-knowing murder, felony murder, kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

During the penalty phase, Muhammad offered evidence that his parents abused drugs and alcohol, that both parents abandoned and neglected him, that he saw his mother stab his father at age three, that his mother's lover physically abused him, that he began running away from home at age ten, that he was improperly advanced through school, that he was sexually abused as a child, that he began abusing drugs at age twelve, that he had abused heroin, cocaine, and alcohol on a daily basis for twenty years, that he suffered several concussions and other untreated head injuries, that he suffered from emotional instability resulting in two suicide attempts, and that he suffered severe emotional trauma when he fought for and lost custody of his two children.

Muhammad was twenty-nine years old at the time of the offense, and had prior convictions for larceny, breaking and entering, and breaking into a coin-operated machine, and was on probation at the time of the offense.

The jury found the c(4)(g) (contemporaneous felony) and c(4)(k) (victim less than fourteen years old) aggravating factors and all of the catchall mitigating factors, but was hung on the death penalty.

Muhammad was sentenced to life without parole on the murder charge, and a consecutive fifty-year term and twenty-five- year parole disqualifier for the kidnapping.


A Life Too Short: A Newark Girl, 8, Is Slain

The New York Times

April 4, 1995

When 8-year-old Jakiyah McClain asked if she could play at her best friend's house a block away, her mother said yes -- if she didn't stay too long.

"We never saw her again," her mother, Pamela McClain, 29, of Newark, said today as she tearfully described her daughter's abduction and killing on Saturday night. The suspect, Rasheed Muhammed, a 29-year-old homeless man, is a childhood friend of Ms. McClain's fiance.

Jakiyah and Ahtavia Maxey, 9, walked to school and played together. Ahtavia could not have company unless her mother said it was O.K. and on Saturday about 5 P.M., when Jakiyah arrived at the Maxeys' first-floor apartment at 136 Hawthorne Avenue, Ahtavia's mother, NeshelleMaxey, was visiting a neighbor one floor up.

The police said Jakiyah then saw Mr. Muhammed in the hallway, who offered to take her upstairs. "He took her by the hand and led her upstairs," said Lieut. Vincent Gagliano, commander of the Newark police homicide unit. "Ahtavia told us later she heard the victim crying and saying, 'Stop, stop.' She said she heard kicking or banging on a door."

When Jakiyah had not returned home by 8:30 P.M., Ms. McClain started looking for her. She notified the police, who then began a search. And later Ahtavia told the police about the man she had seen.

Detectives repeated Ahtavia's description to the building superintendent, who told them a homeless man fitting that description sometimes stayed in No. 14, a vacant third-floor apartment with no lock on the door.

When officers knocked on the door of No. 14, the suspect answered, Lieutenant Gagliano said. "They asked if this was his apartment, and he said no," the lieutenant said. "They found mattresses, crack vials, beer cans and old food. Garbage was thrown all over. A detective opened a bedroom closet and found large piles of soiled clothing. When he started sifting through the clothing, he felt a foot. When he moved the rest of the clothing, he found her."

The girl had been smothered.

Lieutenant Gagliano said Mr. Muhammed was charged on Sunday with murder, sexual aggravated assault and kidnapping.

Ms. McClain and her fiance, Paul Davis, had been planning a wedding in September. Now they are planning a funeral.

"Jakiyah was like my daughter," Mr. Davis said.

"She was only 8," Ms. McClain said. "She was a second-grade honor roll student. I'm just missing her smile."


Rasheed Muhammad



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