Death of Grand Rapids teen in FL deemed homicide

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly two months after the body of a Grand Rapids teen was found after a house fire in Orlando, Florida, police have confirmed her death is being investigated as a homicide.

On Oct. 25, fire crews found 18-year-old Ariel Mezher’s body in a burned Florida home. Her death came just a few weeks after she moved to Florida from Grand Rapids, where she was born and raised.

A few days after the discovery, Grand Rapids resident Brenda Edith Mezher heard from police.

“I got a call saying that there was somebody in a house fire down in Orlando, Florida that possibly could have been my daughter,” she recounted.

Brenda Mezher knew then what a DNA test would later confirm: it was her daughter Ariel inside the burned house.

During an early November vigil for Ariel in Grand Rapids, Ariel’s family said they were waiting for her remains to be sent home from Florida before arranging a funeral.

Weeks went by, but the remains never came, and questions about the case remained. That’s when Mezher decided to take matters into her own hands to bring her daughter’s ashes home.

“There was just something telling me ‘Go get her,’” Mezher said. “It was like Ariel was telling me, ‘Mom, come get me.’”

For Mezher, the trip to Florida brought unexpected closure. It also gave her a chance to meet with investigators working the case.

Initially, authorities didn’t know if Ariel had died from the fire or from some other cause. Now, Mezher says police believe Ariel was stabbed inside the home before the place was torched.

“She was stabbed in the throat a few times,” Mezher said. “They believe she was unconscious before she was set on fire.”

Mezher said the official cause of death was from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

Orlando police wouldn’t comment or confirm any of those details, only confirming to News 8 Friday that the case is “an open and active investigation that has been ruled a homicide.”

Mezher continues to take comfort in the fact that her daughter’s remains are finally home.

Ariel’s ashes sit in a blue urn in the heart of Mezher’s home, surrounded by dozens of cherished photos and mementos.

“This is my Christmas lights,” Mezher said, looking at the display.

Christmas Day will mark exactly two months since Ariel’s death, and there’s just one thing on Mezher’s wish list:

“Justice,” she said. “I really want justice for her.”

Mezher said she’s discussed possible suspects with police, but they’re not releasing any of that information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.