A Baltimore woman and her boyfriend were charged early today with murder in the beating death of the woman's 9-year-old daughter, whom the couple had reported missing Wednesday night from an Anne Arundel County shopping mall.

Houston Lanteon, 34, and Paulette Jenkins, 27, who made a tearful noontime television appeal Thursday for the return of Jenkins' daughter Myeshia were charged at about 1 a.m. today after questioning by police. Both were denied bail this afternoon.

Myeshia's bruised and battered body was discovered by a state highway crew about 2 p.m. Thursday in a brushy area about 20 feet from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Prince George's County. Results of an autopsy from the state medical examiner's office today showed that Myeshia died from "blunt trauma" blows to the body.

Baltimore police Detective Robert McAllister said investigators believe Myeshia was beaten to death late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning in the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom of her family's row house, located in a south Baltimore housing project. Police said it appeared the girl had been struck repeatedly with belts and fists.

McAllister said detectives think Myeshia's body was still at the house Wednesday night when Lanteon and Jenkins went to Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie. At about 9 that evening, the couple told security officers at the mall that the girl was missing, prompting a search of the mall and surrounding residential neighborhoods that was to last all night and involve scores of police officers.

Investigators believe the couple returned to their home in the Fairfield section of Baltimore late Wednesday evening, and sometime before dawn removed Myeshia's body from the house, placed it in the trunk of their 1974 Lincoln, and drove to Prince George's County, where they dumped the body by the side of the parkway.

Myeshia's friends and neighbors in Fairfield, a small, isolated neighborhood surrounded by rail yards and chemical tanks, were stunned by the death of a child they described as bright and friendly. Her nickname was Sparkle.

"She was a very sweet and really intelligent little girl," said Barbara Clark, a neighbor and a teacher's aide at Myeshia's nearby elementary school. "She always had a smile on her face."

Both Jenkins and Lanteon are unemployed, and neighbors said the couple kept to themselves. The couple's 4-month-old son and Jenkins' 6-year-old son lived with them, according to police, and now have been placed in city custody.

By the time Jenkins and Lanteon appeared on a Baltimore television station's noon news show on Thursday pleading for information about the girl's whereabouts, Anne Arundel police detectives said they already had serious doubts about the couple's story. In retracing the couple's account of their shopping trip at the mall, detectives encountered store employes who said they did not remember Jenkins, Lanteon or Myeshia being in their stores.

About the time Anne Arundel detectives were interviewing store employes, state highway workers removing litter from the roadside in Prince George's County found the severely beaten body of a young girl. She was dressed in a light blue turtleneck, dark blue hooded corduroy jacket, brown corduroy pants and pink tennis shoes with white stripes, Prince George's police said. It was the same clothing Myeshia Jenkins was wearing when she was reported missing.