National News

Man named person of interest in Florida girl's death

Posted February 11, 2010
Updated February 12, 2010

— Authorities have arrested a man they are calling a person of interest in the kidnapping and killing of a northeast Florida girl whose body was found in a landfill after she vanished on her way home from school.

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said a man who had lived in the girl's neighborhood was arrested in Mississippi Thursday on 29 charges of possession of child pornography. The man, Jarred Harrell, 24, has not been charged in the death of 7-year-old Somer Thompson.

Harrell, who was arrested in Meridian, Miss., had lived until recently in a home near Somer Thompson's. Authorities searched that house Thursday. Deputies and an FBI forensics team were seen searching its front yard with rakes and shovels

Beseler, who announced the arrest during an evening news conference, said a vehicle had also been searched.

The 7-year-old girl vanished Oct. 19 as she was walking home from school, sparking a search that lasted for two days. Investigators sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage at a landfill some 50 miles away, across the state line in Georgia, before their worst fears were realized: Sticking out of the rubbish were a child's lifeless legs.

The girl lived in Orange Park with her mother. The girl's father, Sam Thompson, lives in Graham, N.C.

Authorities have checked into thousands of tips in the case in the nearly four months since, but no one has been charged in the killing. The girl's mother, Diena Thompson, said she didn't want to get her hopes up that a break had been made in the case.

"I'm not speculating on anything. I don't want to get my hopes up and I don't want to get my hopes down," she told The Florida Times-Union. "I'm going to put my faith in God."

P.J. Simms, who has lived in the neighborhood 17 years, said she hopes authorities find what they are looking for.

"I just hope they find what they were looking for because it has been a long time coming. This is the first time anything like this has ever happened. It's broken our hearts," she said. "You used to see 40 to 50 kids out here every day, now there's always somebody with them."

Simms said she knew Somer because she used to babysit for the girl's friend.

"She was a sweetheart, just very loving. She always wanted to be a part of everything. I hope and pray to God that this is it so we can finally let the kids play."


Information from: The Florida Times-Union


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  • Joani P. Feb 12, 2010

    If this man is in fact guilty HANG HIM!

  • JAT Feb 12, 2010

    I just don't understand a "human" who would molest and kill child just to get a 15 second thrill. Someone like that should never be allowed out into society again once they're caught. It's not just about murder; it's about so much more. They'd do anything to appease their urges and that kind of person can never be rehabilitated or trusted.

  • christinathefern Feb 12, 2010

    If this man is soon cleared...I hope he sues all these media outlets for plastering his name and picture everywhere.

    Seriously? How he was 'picked up' in the first place was because of TWENTY NINE counts of child pornography. He lost his rights to privacy when he was caught with that material. Whether he's the killer or not, he should be executed anyways. What kind of monster 'gets off' looking at children with horrible things being done to them?
    You can't cure a pedophile.

  • kbo80 Feb 12, 2010

    blondectryrose They sure will protect him. For nothing. They need to send them to thrid world countries where they will nevr make it.

  • sssh.. whisper Feb 12, 2010

    Prayers to the family. RIP angel.

  • tarheelalum Feb 12, 2010

    If this man is soon cleared...I hope he sues all these media outlets for plastering his name and picture everywhere.

  • Spooner Feb 12, 2010

    He should be killed immediately if they find evidence to link him to her murder. The mother or father should be the ones to give out the punishment.

  • blondectryrose Feb 12, 2010

    if he did do it they will put him in 'protective custody' 'for his safety!!!!!???? Why protect these monsters when the child wasnt protected!!!!!!!!

  • mewuvbb Feb 12, 2010

    Faith in God will find the one responsible. God SPEED