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.
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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.
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"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.
Jarred Harrell: Family Secrets
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.
Jarred Harrell: Family Secrets
"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.
Jarred Harrell: A Picture in Contrasts
At 24 years old, Jarred Harrell still lived with his mother and depended on her financially.
Relatives say Harrell had always been overweight and slow in school, and had often been picked on, even by his two younger step-brothers.
A MySpace profile Harrell kept showed glimpses of someone who can't take it anymore, seemingly wanting revenge.
The song that topped Harrell's playlist was "Waking the Demon" by Bullet for My Valentine. In the song, a victim of bullying is transformed by blind rage and viciously attacks and kills his tormentor.
Was it a peek into the mind of someone who was about to snap -- or nothing more than average teenage angst?
Jarred Harrell: Warning Signs
It turns out police had been tipped off about Harrell's alleged interest in child pornography two months before Somer disappeared.
Lisa and Rod Buchannan knew Harrell through his stepfather, who was active in their church. In the summer of 2008, when Annis asked whether Harrell could move into an apartment complex with the Buchannans' daughter, Katie, and her fiance, the Buchannans agreed.
But the arrangement didn't last long.
"Things turned up missing" within a month or two, Rod Buchannan told ABC News' Chris Cuomo. Katie and her fiance said that one night they found their iPod in Harrell's car.
"Being that he was a family friend, they give him an option," Buchannan said. "Get your stuff, get out right now, middle of the night -- or we call the police and put you in jail."
The Buchannans say Harrell left -- but he left behind his computer.
That was a mistake. Buchannan's son knew a dark secret about what might be on Harrell's computer. He told his sister.
"So they decided to search the computer at that point," Rod Buchannan said. "And that's when they found -- I mean, it was right there on the desktop. There was no effort made whatsoever to hide the material."
The Buchannan siblings told their parents they had found child pornography on Harrell's computer -- a lot of it.
"Stuff that our children shouldn't have seen," Rod Buchannan said. "Should have never had to see."
Rod Buchannan took his wife and daughter to the police to turn over the computer. He said that Katie told police she feared that Harrell might have known some of the children in the pictures.
Harrell had plenty of access to kids. He babysat his sister's children. His sister ran a business selling toddler items out of her home. They lived in a neighborhood filled with young kids.
As it turned out, Katie Buchannan's fears were justified, authorities say. After Harrell's arrest, police said, they found his camera. It had more photos and a video on it of a 3-year-old child whom Harrell knew, they said.
Somer's Mom: 'I Don't Feel Sorry for Him'
After Harrell was arrested, Cuomo asked Somer Thompson's mother, Diena Thompson, about her feelings about the murder suspect. Did it help her understand how Harrell got to the point he allegedly did?
"No," Thompson said. "I don't feel sorry for him. You make choices in life. And all of us go through trials and tribulations. ... I have been through similar circumstances in my life, and I'm not killing, raping, stealing children.
"You make choices to do things different. Stop the cycle, end the abuse, don't do this."