Cops to Search Vacant Home Where Somer Was Last Seen

Sheriff fears for his community, says "there is a child killer on the loose."

ByABC News via logo
October 21, 2009, 4:52 PM

Oct. 22, 2009— -- Florida investigators are focusing their search into the abduction and murder of 7-year-old Somer Thompson on an empty house just 500 yards from where the young girl was last seen.

A forensic unit from the Clay County Sheriff's office in Florida has been dispatched to the home, where witnesses say the little girl whose hair was in pigtails and was sporting a Hannah Montana backpack was last seen.

"That is the last location that we know anyone saw her," said Mary Justino, the public information officer for the Clay County Sheriff's Office. "And it corresponds with other witness information from people in the neighborhood and children from the school."

Justino said that officials positively identified the body found yesterday in a Georgia landfill by using dental records. The girl had previously been identified by a birthmark and her clothes.

The spokeswoman said a preliminary autopsy had been completed, but she declined to provide details on the cause of death or the condition of the body when it was found.

Police have worked their way through many of the 651 leads had been called into the tip line with another 231 leads still to be assigned to the more than 50 law enforcement officials working the case around the clock.

Of the more than 150 registered sex offenders in the five mile radius where Somer was last seen, all but five have been interviewed so far, Justino said.

Justino said investigators are still sifting through approximately 225 tons of garbage from the landfill where Somer's body was found in hopes of finding anything of "evidentiary value."

Somer disappeared Monday while walking home from school in her Orange Park, Fla., neighborhood.

Earlier today, Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said he was concerned for the safety of area residents.

"There is a child killer on the loose. I fear for our community," he said.

"We feel very comfortable that we are going to solve this case," Beseler told "Good Morning America."

Beseler said he notified Somer's mother, Diena Thompson, Wednesday that they had found her little girl.

"I had to make one of the hardest calls I've ever had to make in my career last night," he said.

Thompson, both stunned and distraught, came to a vigil held in her daughter's memory Wednesday night and led mourners in a rendition of Somer's favorite song, "You Are My Sunshine."

Neighbor Anna Braddy told "Good Morning America" today that Thompson was in "total shock.

"She really didn't say much," Braddy said. "She just couldn't believe it was happening."

The community, she added, is now both fearful and angry that something like this could happen.

"You know we've lived in this neighborhood five years. We felt pretty safe," she said. "Personally, I'm just mad about the whole situation."