National News

Sheriff: Body appears to be missing Florida girl

Posted October 22, 2009

— Authorities have tentatively identified a body found in a landfill as that of 7-year-old Somer Thompson, a north Florida girl who disappeared on her walk home from school Monday, the sheriff in charge of the case said Thursday.

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said the tentative identification was based on clothing and on a birthmark that matched the girl's.

Her aunt, 43-year-old Laura Holt, said Somer's relatives who live in Graham, N.C., are "torn up" about the confirmation of her identity. She hopes authorities will find her niece's killer.

"I don't think they deserve to live," Holt said. "I don't think there's anything worse that a person can do – to kill a child and dump her in the dump like a piece of trash?"

Somer's father, Sam Thompson, has left his Graham house to avoid reporters, Holt said.

Detectives spotted the legs first and found the body partially covered by garbage Wednesday in a Georgia landfill, near the Florida state line. Beseler credited a detective for suggesting that investigators follow several dozen garbage trucks leaving the neighborhood the day after Somer disappeared.

"It was a massive undertaking," Beseler said. "Some of my detectives looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to do this."

"Had we not done that, tons of garbage would have been distributed over the top of the body, and it likely would have never been found," he told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Beseler said at a news conference he still fears for the community until a suspect is apprehended. He urged residents to be vigilant but not to become "so paranoid and scared you can't live your life."

Beseler wouldn't talk about what evidence police have recovered or whether investigators believe the crime was committed by one or more people. He said police have questioned more than 70 registered sex offenders in the area, and that process was continuing. Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show 161 offenders live in a 5-mile radius of Somer's home.

An FBI forensic unit is leading the effort to process evidence from the landfill in Folkston, Ga., about 48 miles from where the girl disappeared. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation planned an autopsy Thursday.

Somer vanished on her mile-long walk home from school in Orange Park. She was squabbling with another child, and her sister told her to stop. The girl got upset, walked ahead of the group and wasn't seen again.

Authorities launched a countywide search involving helicopters, dogs and volunteers walking arm-to-arm through wooded areas.

Orange Park is a suburb of Jacksonville just south of Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The area where the girl disappeared is a heavily populated residential area with homes, apartment complexes and condominiums.

Two deputies stood guard at the home of Somer's mother, Diena Thompson, early Thursday. It appeared to be full of supporters. An oak tree across the street was decorated with flowers, candles and pictures of Somer.

"This has been so unreal for the neighborhood," said Sharon Galloway, who lives across the street from the Thompsons. "I just hope they get that son of a gun."

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  • Fed-up29 Oct 22, 2009

    161 sex offenders in a 5 mile radius of this girls house....i thought Florida's laws were more stringent against living condidtions for sexual offenders......this is even disturbing with the numbers being what they are.

  • Professor Oct 22, 2009

    WHEN will we stop giving quarter to child molesters? WHAT will it take?
    affirmativediversity

    When certain parents take the time to WATCH their children at all times. These parents needs to be more responsible or stop having children period!

  • Professor Oct 22, 2009

    Too much of this is happening because certain parents are taking their responsibility seriously. This is a danger to your own child. When are you parents going to wake up. Your under-age child depends on you and you are failing them. If you cannot handle them any more, then think about adoption. Someone out there will love them as their own.

  • affirmativediversity Oct 22, 2009

    This is so sad. My heart and prayers go to the family, friends and community!!!

    WHEN will we stop giving quarter to child molesters? WHAT will it take?

  • Professor Oct 22, 2009

    Continue to pray for this family. All parents with under-age children, simply take the time to watch them at all times. Stand with them at the bus stops, walk them to school and back afterwards and just be safe. We live in a society that is no longer safe for children and adults as well.

  • lisa4 Oct 22, 2009

    Rest in peace little Somer. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of this precious little angel. I pray they soon find out exactly what happened to this precious one.

  • Iworkforaliving Oct 22, 2009

    "I just hope they get that son of a gun."
    Please keep in mind that men are not the only sick people on this planet.

  • sssh.. whisper Oct 22, 2009

    This is such a sad story... though, it makes me wonder about the Amber Alert policies... Honestly, if a child is missing this should automatically be enough reason to create and Amber alert. According to authorities it was stated that the Amber alert wasn't put out until Tuesday morning because no one witnessed her being taken and there was not a vehicle seen.

    My prayers are with the family. RIP sweet angel

  • ThinkChick Oct 22, 2009

    "may whoever did this to you be found and dealt with mercilessly." AMEN and AMEN. The people who prey on children are animals. Pedophiles cannot be rehabilitated. C@$strated yes, but not rehabilitated.

    Another WRAL story reports our state is getting ready to unleash 20 equally violent offenders back into our neighborhoods and areas of business. Because the perps' rights are what count - ask the defense lawyers.

    I sincerely hope the state does not allow this to happen or the chances of individuals who are reading this or someone they know falling prey to a similar predator will increase - and we should hold not only the perp but the state and the lawyers accountable.

  • kenshi Oct 22, 2009

    This is why there should always be a death penalty. Anyone that does something like this to a child does not deserve to live.

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