How Somer Thompson Suspect Was Caught

PHOTO Police said they followed protocol in not taking Jarred Harrell, the accused killer of Somer Thompson, off the streets earlier.

In the cover of darkness, a man runs.

He is alone, and yet he is being watched. Neighbors awakening to their weekday obligations notice that for the man, dawn has become a kind of witching hour of stealthy activity.

For weeks, 24-year-old Jarred Harrell was observed scurrying from his shed to various areas of his backyard in the early morning. Sometimes he was dressed only in what neighbors described as short silk boxers and a gray sweatshirt.

According to a woman who lived next door, Harrell, who moved to the home in Callahan, Fla., at the start of the year, acted strangely from the start.

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"He would run from the shed back there, and just run back and forth, back and forth. He'd be out there sometimes 5:00, 5:30 in the morning just running," said the neighbor, Christie, who asked that her last name not be used.

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"He had on like these really short... short silk... things, they kind of looked like boxers. And a gray sweatshirt, 'cause we would laugh at how he was dressed," said another neighbor who asked to be identified as Jackie.

They say he'd run for hours.

"Just like crazy running, like a kid would run when they're mad," said Christie.

As it turns out, Jarred Harrell probably had a lot on his mind. He was fast becoming a person of interest in the murder of young Somer Thompson, who vanished while walking home from school in Orange Park, Fla., on the same block where Harrell reportedly had been living at the time.

The 7-year-old girl, whose body was found in a Folkston, Ga., landfill after her October 2009 abduction, was also in Rod Buchannan's thoughts.

Buchannan, a landscaper, says he'll never forget driving down Gano Avenue -- the street where Somer went missing -- just two days after the girl's body was found. He and his wife, Lisa, suddenly spotted a familiar car parked in a driveway not far from her elementary school.

"At this point, the hair was standing up at the back of our necks. Instantly, we had that sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. And we were nervous and I won't -- won't deny we were both scared," said Buchannan.

Jarred Harrell's Computer

Scared, because they knew the owner of the car was Jarred Harrell, someone with a dark past that they had come to fear. He was their daughter's former housemate and, from what they knew about him, the fact that he was living just three houses down from where Somer was last seen was reason for concern.

Buchannan said that less than a year earlier his son had accidentally stumbled onto Harrell's terrible secret.

"He got onto Jarred's computer one day to play a game," Buchannan said. "There was an icon on the desktop, that said, it was either 'Child Penetration' or 'Toddler Penetration.' As he turned around, Harrell came back up, and reached around and turned the computer off. And told him not to get back on the computer without his permission."

But what the Buchannans discovered later on Harrell's computer would leave no room for doubt. Harrell's mother had asked if her son could move into an apartment complex with the Buchannans' daughter and her fiancé to help him get on his feet and share expenses. Harrell did so, but the arrangement did not last long.

"Things turned up missing," said Buchannan.

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