Remembering Malik

Nancy Covington, the grandmother of Malik Drummond, who was murdered when he was 2, looks at the poster she put up to commemorate the sixth anniversary of his death. His 8-year-old twin, Aryanna, lives in Texas.

Nancy Covington puts up a banner every year on the front fence of her residence on Morris School Road to remember her grandson, Malik Drummond, who in the fall of 2014 was reported missing from an apartment at 710 W. Park Ave., sparking a massive search before it was later found that the 2-year-old had been killed by his father.

Friday marked the sixth anniversary of Malik’s death. The banner has a picture of him and his twin sister, Aryanna, who is 8 years old and now lives in Texas.

“We all miss him,” Covington said. “There is not a memory that goes by that we don’t miss him. The people that were involved should have got more than what they got. The father was there but he wasn’t there.”

Malik being reported missing had people joining in the search within a matter of 15 to 30 minutes of being notified about 5:45 p.m on Nov. 23, 2014, said then-Searcy Assistant Police Chief Steve Taylor. “Not only members of the police department but with people in the neighborhood. Over the next few days, we had well over 1,000 volunteers show up every day.”

The 2-year-old was 3 feet tall, 40 pounds and had brown eyes and brown hair. An Amber Alert was set into the motion the night of his disappearance.

Covington noted the community coming together for Malik. “They were wonderful. I was incarcerated when he came up missing. Everybody was supportive that was there for me and Tanya [Covington’s daughter].”

Covington said the first couple years after Malik’s death, people would reach out to her but not so much in the last four years. “My husband now tells a lot of people that I am Malik’s grandmother and they give me their sympathies and everything. Malik was funny and he smiled all the time. He was just a wonderful baby.”

Malik’s father, Jeffrey Leroy Clifton, then 43, of Searcy pleaded no contest May 27, 2016, to second-degree murder, a class A felony, and abuse of a corpse, a class C felony, and was given 40 years to be served consecutively in the Arkansas Department of Correction. The Daily Citizen reported in June 2016 that the murder charge was reduced from capital murder, a class Y felony, in a negotiated plea deal. Clifton, a 6-7 former Arkansas State University basketball player, was arrested just before midnight Dec. 1, 2015. He is being held in the Cummins Unit in Grady,

Also in the case, Lesley Sue Marcotte pleaded guilty before now retired White County Circuit Judge Robert Edwards to a charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution, a class B felony, and was sentenced to 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Marcotte was released after completing the ADC’s 105-day boot camp after serving four months of her sentence. The rest of her sentence is being served under supervised parole, 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Becky McCoy said.

The department  notified McCoy about Marcotte’s release a day after it had released her. Normally, a defendant would serve at least 20 months of a 120-month sentence, McCoy said.

Marcotte and Clifton had reported Nov. 24, 2014, that Malik had gone missing from their apartment. She “reported that the child had walked out of the house and virtually disappeared,” McCoy said. “An extensive search for the child was conducted including civilians, local, state and federal law enforcement officers, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Later, McCoy said Marcotte gave a statement admitting that she knew in 2014 that Malik was dead and knowingly participated in the cover-up.

Throughout the investigation, numerous inconsistencies had emerged regarding Malik’s disappearance. In her new statement, Marcotte reportedly told investigators that Clifton had beaten Malik on Nov. 20, 2014, and that the toddler had died as a result of his injuries, which included “extensive bruising.”

In her statement, she reportedly said Clifton had kept Malik’s body in his truck until the early morning of Nov. 23, even taking it with him to work, before borrowing a sport utility vehicle from his brother to take the body and dispose of it. According to an affidavit, a cadaver dog had alerted police to the vehicle’s interior in 2014.

It was also reported that in the three days between when Malik died and when they reported him missing, Clifton and Marcotte attempted to devise a plan that would frame Malik’s biological mother for his disappearance, according to the affidavit .

Covington said Malik’s body was found next to an old liquor store in Jackson County.

“He was buried. They buried him and I guess over the years the wolves and the dogs dug him up,” Covington said. “I don know why he did it. I don’t even know why he put him in the Jeep and rode around town. I just don’t know why he didn’t take him to the hospital.”

She just doesn’t want Malik and what happened to him to be forgotten.

“All these kids that get murdered or whatever, taken on TV, they go back and remember them, but they don’t remember Malik,” Covington said. “On the news, they remember all these kids that got murdered and disappeared. It’s like he just vanished. They don’t remember. They don’t have no knowledge of Malik.”

That’s one reason she has the poster of Malik and Aryana “from when he passed away, his revival and everything. I put it out on our fence in our fenced in yard on their birthday.”

She said her family also prays a lot at the kitchen table about Malik and noted the bench donated by the Searcy Police Department in Malik’s honor at Spring Park. ‘The community will know that Malik will be remembered forever.”

Officers who were with the department when Malik disappeared certainly haven’t forgotten.

“Six years ago, the Searcy Police Department began one of the most emotionally taxing investigations that many of us had experienced to that point in our careers,” Maj. Brian Wyatt said Friday. “When Malik was reported missing, not a one of us knew him or had ever had the opportunity to meet him. In the beginning moments of the investigation, we only knew his name.

“However, over the following 12 months, we came to know Malik and love him as if he was our own. The main priority was to bring Malik home. Thirteen months later, we succeeded in this goal, but unfortunately, it was not the way we had wished and prayed for.”

What the search for Malik showed, Wyatt said, is “how a community can come together, put aside differences and work side by side in a time of tragedy. Malik’s time on this earth was short, but he made a difference in all of our lives.

“Malik’s memory lives on in all of us that were involved in the investigation. We did not know him until he was already gone, but the impact he left on each of us will carry on throughout our lives and careers.”

McCoy called Malik’s case “unique, in that it involved the entire community of Searcy.”

“Law enforcements agencies from jurisdictions from across the state came in and assisted in searching the river out at Riverside Park and various other places they had received information that they might be able to find him. None of that was accurate,” McCoy said. “It was quite amazing and touching to see the compassion that the community showed.

“That was the first case that I had prosecuted where a child was a victim of domestic violence and died. I have been a deputy prosecutor when we have had other types of cases not quite that egregious – homicide cases where the victims were children – but that was the first one I prosecuted myself.”

“... That little boy touched this community. it was a good year before we got good information on who all was involved. His dad was the one who ultimately told law enforcement where he put the body, so that is how they found him.”

Information for this article was contributed by former staff writer Dana Guthrie.

Information for this article was contributed by former staff writer Dana Guthrie.

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