BROOKLYN — The man arrested and charged with killing 14-year-old Shaniesha Forbes before dumping her burned body at Gerritsen Beach earlier this year took advantage of an innocent young girl who didn't even try to fight back in her final moments, relatives said Thursday.
Shaniesha's tearful family members said Thursday morning that they had never met or heard of alleged murderer Christian Ferdinand, 20, before he was booked Thursday, two weeks after Shaniesha's death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation and more than four months after her body was found naked and burned on Gerritsen Beach Jan. 6, 2013, according to the NYPD.
But they said that once they heard the types of injuries that killed Shaniesha, they knew it was someone close to her.
"Once we found out she was suffocated, we knew it was personal. We knew it was someone she knew," Shaniesha's cousin Kerri-Ann Thomas said at a press conference Thursday morning at a relative's home in Flatlands, Brooklyn.
"She trusted you. She didn't have the will to fight back, but we have the will to fight back and make sure the fight she did not put up that day, we will put up in court," Thomas said.
Shaniesha and Ferdinand met over the Internet and carried on a casual affair, police sources said.
"As an adult, which he is, he should have known it was inappropriate to have any type of relationship with a 14-year-old," Thomas said. "'No one has met him and, if we did, there would've been no relationship. It would've ended right there."
Ferdinand, who lived in Limestone, Maine, told police he suffocated Shaniesha with a pillow in his cousin's apartment, prosecutors said. He then transported her body to the beach, dumped it on the sand and set it alight, the Post reported.
He reportedly suspected the aspiring nurse was pregnant, the New York Post reported. Thomas said Shaniesha was not pregnant.
Before his arraignment on Thursday, Ferdinand hid his face behind a dark hood and did not respond to questions as police marched him out of the 63rd Precinct stationhouse before noon on Thursday.
His lawyer Jonathan Fink entered a plea of not guilty to second-degree murder charges.
"Put him away for life. That's what he deserves," Shaniesha's distraught mother, Sandra Price, said Thursday morning.
New York investigators first contacted the Limestone police department about Ferdinand in March, according to a statement from Limestone Police Chief Stacey Mahan.
On May 13, the two departments, along with Maine State Police, met with Ferdinand and took him into custody in that state, Mahan said.
He was extradited to Brooklyn afterward.
“She was a good girl. She don’t even start to live her life. And they took her away from us," said Shaniesha's grandmother Daisy Smith.
“I’m happy for the police department. So happy they caught this guy who killed my granddaughter."
Friends, relatives and classmates at Brooklyn's Academy for Young Writers took to social media immediately after Shaniesha's death to mourn her, with many remembering her as kind and lively.
"As I think back from all the old times they bring joy to my heart, but tears to my eyes," wrote longtime friend Ashley James. "Shaniesha, I love you and I hope you rest in paradise."
Relatives said they'd had grown frustrated as the months dragged on without any developments in the case.
"She was a very good girl," Smith said earlier. "The whole family has grieved, sleepless nights."
Relatives said they were overjoyed that Ferdinand had been arrested, but determined to bring him to justice.
"'The family was very relentless in trying to find out what happened to her," Thomas said.
"Justice hasn't been served yet. He just got arrested. We now need to make sure he's prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."