Aug. 13, 2011 -- A father of three has been charged with first-degree murder in the case of Breeann Rodriguez, the 3-year-old who went missing on Aug. 6 while riding her pink bicycle in her Senath, Mo., neighborhood.
Shawn Morgan, 43, sits in the Dunklin County Jail, awaiting an arraignment which will be scheduled Monday, Dunklin County Sheriff's Department spokesman Mike McCammon said this afternoon.
Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff said that in addition to first degree murder, Morgan was charged with armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence.
"Morgan is charged with causing the death of Breeann Rodriguez, 3-years old, also of Senath, by suffocating her," Sokoloff told ABC affiliate KAIT-TV. "The charge is that he did this on Aug. 6, the day that she went missing."
Sheriff's deputies, Missouri State Highway Patrol, FBI agents, officers from the Senath Police Department and volunteers searched throughout the day for Breeann's body, McCammon said, adding that he wasn't authorized to disclose any other details.
The search was to resume Sunday morning.
Morgan was quietly arrested around 11 p.m. Friday, said Debra Miller, who lives across the street and learned from someone else that her decade-long neighbor had been taken into police custody.
"Earlier we had noticed items being taken out of the house by the FBI," Miller, 51, said. "His wife just came over and said they were taking out computers and just bags of stuff. ... Of course she was upset but trying to believe the best."
Morgan worked in a steel factory in nearby Blytheville, Ark., Miller said.
"Our street is a dead-end street. We watch after each other's children. Our grandchildren have been here all summer," she said. "This is so shocking. It's hard to believe. ... He's such a small-built man, about 5'6," maybe 130 or 140 popunds, real meek. And just always seemed like a real nice guy."
The tragedy also has unified a town where the growing number of Latino residents has caused a sense of division, she said.
"You know how it is: You work, you come home, you associate with the people you've always associated with," Miller said. But since Breeann's disappearance, she said, "Everybody stands together. The rescue effort brought everybody out, including people from the next town. I made everybody know that a child is just a a child."
Breeann Rodriguez Missing: 'It Aint Supposed to Happen,' Cop Says
The two small bicycle training wheels were found Thursday in an area of "heavy brush" located approximately two miles southeast of Breeann's home which the FBI said may have come from the tot's bicycle.
The girl's father, Edgar Rodriguez, however, identified the wheels as belonging to his daughter because he had adjusted the wheels for Breeann's 2-foot-4 height, the FBI said.
The rest of the bike has not been found, police said.
The little girl was last seen riding her bike with her 5-year-old brother. Her brother ran inside to get a drink, and when he returned his sister had disappeared.
"It's just something we never thought we'd be going through," Edgar Rodriguez said.
Senath is a tiny hamlet in the southeast corner of the state with a population of less than 1,600 people and an extremely low crime rate.
"I got a child missing and it ain't supposed to happen," Senath Police Department Chief Omar Karnes said.
Billboards with Breeann's picture recently went up in Missouri and Arkansas with an announcement of a $45,000 reward -- $25,000 from the FBI and $20,000 from the Senath Marshal's Office -- for the arrest and prosecution of whoever is responsible.
One of the many early leads in the case included the investigation of two vans that were seen in the area before Breeann's disappearance. The driver of one of the vehicles had been brought in for questioning by Senath police but has since been released, and the sheriff said today officials are no longer interested in the vans.
Breeann was last seen wearing a pink top and a pair of pink and purple pants. Police are asking anyone with information to call 866-371-TIPS.