December 5, 2017
Little Rock, Arkansas
The bodies of Mariah Cunningham (24) and her two children — A’Laylaih Fisher (5) and Elijah Fisher (4) — are found in their home

Warning: The details of this article may be considered graphic. Discretion is advised.

The victims had each been stabbed repeatedly — 4-year-old Elijah had 14 wounds centralized around his neck, 5-year-old A’Laylaih had been stabbed or slashed approximately two dozen times with the injuries concentrated to her neck and face, and Cunningham had been stabbed 30 times. Both children had deep lacerations to their necks as well; the killer had attempted to saw A’Laylaih’s head off and Elijah had been decapitated. Cunningham’s 8-year-old had not been home at the time of the murders.

Mariah Cunningham and her children, A’Laylaih and Elijah Fisher
via GoFundMe

“I’m pretty sure that she was fighting with all her might to get to her children to save them,” Cunningham’s cousin told reporters.

Two serrated knives were left behind at the scene, one which had been bent at a nearly 90º angle from the attack. Video surveillance footage recorded two men entering the home and one man leaving. The footage was made with a motion-activated camera with time stamps, which showed the murders took approximately 20 minutes, though the quality of the images were not detailed enough to discern the men’s faces.

Knives from the crime scene
via KLRT

Five days after the murders, Michael Ivory Collins (24) was arrested by federal agents in Chicago. At the time of his arrest, Collins was wearing shoes with blood from the three victims. Collins’ half-brother, William Burrell Alexander (21) was arrested the following month.

William Burrell Alexander (left) and Michael Ivory Collins
via Associated Press

Alexander admitted to investigators about his role in the murders. “All I heard was screaming,” Alexander said during the recorded interview. “I turned around … and my brother was stabbing her … stabbing the mama, bro.” Alexander then recounted A’Laylaih running toward Collins while demanding, “get off my mama,” before Collins attacked the girl. “I’m like just standing there … like to the point where I’m dead where I can’t move,” Alexander continued.

Alexander restrained Cunningham while her children were tortured and murdered, at which point Cunningham was also killed. Once the family was killed, Alexander told investigators, the brothers took Cunningham’s television, Xbox, and car. The vehicle was not in good running condition and was quickly abandoned, however.

Alexander pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and 3 counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 60 years imprisonment.

Collins, who had known Cunningham prior to the murders, pleaded not guilty and faced trial. While awaiting trial, he seemingly confessed to the murders while speaking with a friend on the phone. The conversation was transcribed in part: “Yep. I did everything. Did the whole nine, and then I forced my brother to go with me.”

“Yep. I did everything. Did the whole nine, and then I forced my brother to go with me.”

Michael Collins

Collins’ former cellmate had volunteered as a witness against him, offering numerous details of the murder including those deliberately withheld from the press. According to the cellmate, Collins had been having repeated dreams of Cunningham. “Like any good mother,” the prosecution told the court, “Mariah fought and fought, and then she haunted him in his dreams.”

The prosecution almost stated the children were tortured to death during the robbery to coerce Cunningham to reveal the location of additional valuables Collins believed she possessed. The prosecutor described the children’s deaths as “designed to cause the most unimaginable terror. All because she couldn’t give [Collins] what he wanted.”

The jury took 30 minutes to convict Collins and sentenced him to life without parole.

Sources:
“Special Report: The Mariah Cunningham Case: Two Years Pursuing Justice.” KLRT. December 4, 2019. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://www.fox16.com/news/special-reports/special-report/
“Arkansas man gets 60 years in brutal killings of mom, 2 kids.” Associated Press. October 30, 2019. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/168d9c3af9634743abb4f2d52d9607a9
“Arkansas man gets 60 years in brutal killings of mom, 2 kids.” KATV. October 30, 2019. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://katv.com/news/local/arkansas-man-gets-60-years-in-brutal-killings-of-mom-2-kids
Lynch, John. “Lawyer: Mother watched kids die at Little Rock apartment.” Arkansas Online. October 17, 2019. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/oct/17/lawyer-mother-watched-kids-die-20191017/
Carroll, Scott. “Police connect Little Rock brothers to 4th killing.” KATV. July 5, 2018. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://katv.com/news/local/police-link-4th-killing-to-little-rock-brothers
“Arrest made in connection with murder of mother, two children.” KATV. January 9, 2018. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://katv.com/news/local/arrest-made-in-murder-of-mother-two-children
Wilson, Kristen. “LRPD makes plea for public’s help in triple homicide case.” KATV. January 4, 2018. Accessed: December 5, 2020. https://katv.com/news/local/lrpd-makes-plea-for-publics-help-in-triple-homicide-case

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