The report that 7-year-old Somer Thompson's body had been discovered in a landfill shook the town of Orange Park, Fla., to the core.
It would take five months, more than 4,000 leads and several blind alleys before police would hone in on someone who had been brought to their attention even before Somer had disappeared.
Click HERE for resources for parents to help protect kids from sex offenders.
Twenty-four year-old Jarred Harrell, who lived just a few houses from where Somer was last seen, is now charged with first-degree murder in her death. A month earlier, Harrell had been arrested and charged with dozens of counts of possessing and producing child pornography and molesting a different young girl. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Click HERE for a map of registered sex offenders near the school Somer Thompson attended.
Click HERE for photos from the Somer Thompson case.
"You would look at this guy and you'd say ... big, gentle giant," a family friend, Rod Buchannan, told ABC News. "Wouldn't hurt a flea. He was very polite, very nice, you know."
But after his arrest, Harrell's family background began to unfold, and soon a different picture emerged.
Twenty-one years ago, Harrell's mother, Annis Dailey, made headlines of her own when she fell under the spell of her much older employer, Joe Newman, a married man, self-professed inventor and "messenger of God."
Among the messages he claimed to have received from God was an order to marry Annis -- and her 8-year-old daughter as well.
"God spoke to me the morning of Feb. 13, 1989, telling me to marry [the girl] which is exactly five months to the day that Hurricane Gilbert became the greatest hurricane of the century..." Newman was quoted as saying by Mississippi's Georgia County Times. "God has chosen [the girl] and Annis and Ellen [Newman's wife] in a special way to glorify God's word and righteousness."
Newman claimed God would tell him when to consummate the "marriage" with the little girl.
The tabloid Weekly World News ran a feature on the couple. "Everything that's happened, God has a definite purpose to it," Annis was quoted as saying. "It's taken a genius like Joe to lead it."
Jarred Harrell was 3 years old at the time. A Mississippi court ruled Annis an unfit mother and removed the children.
Six years later, Annis regained custody of her children, but relatives say things were never stable very long.
Records show that Harrell's mother had at least 56 different addresses in almost as many cities while Harrell was growing up. She has been married four times, filed for bankruptcy three times, has been evicted from at least one home and was found guilty of grand theft after allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from an employer.
But by last year, there were signs that Annis Dailey was turning her life around. Her business profile for the Amelia Island Chamber of Commerce boasts of a loving family. Her husband, General Dailey, had recently been featured in the local media for his Good Samaritan work organizing volunteers during emergencies.
At 24 years old, Jarred Harrell still lived with his mother and depended on her financially.