Nov. 18, 2005 — -- The search for a missing 6-year-old Colorado girl is now a homicide investigation. Police say the child may have been killed more than a year ago and consider her father a "person of interest" in the case.
Aarone Thompson was reported missing on Monday by her father. Police in Aurora, Colo., with the help of the FBI, conducted an intense three-day search, but concluded, after a call from a close friend of the family late Wednesday night, that Aarone was killed in her home perhaps as long as 18 months ago by someone close to her.
"We believe that Aarone was murdered in the home," said acting police Chief Terry Jones. "It [the call] shed some light on the fact that Aarone Thompson may have been murdered in this house on Kepner Drive, not recently, some time ago, but up to a year-and-a-half ago. The individual did have the information [for some time] and I don't know what prompted the fact that the information came forward other than the media coverage that Aarone Thompson was missing."
No body has been found and no one has been arrested in the case, Jones said. But he said the girl's father, Aaron Thompson, and his live-in girlfriend, Sheley Lowe, are considered "persons of interest" in the case.
Police say they have not yet interviewed Thompson and Lowe since they became "persons of interests" but they have had preliminary talks with seven other children who live in their home. The children, whose ages range from 6 to 15 years old, have been taken into protective custody.
"The children that were in the home, based on the information that we have, may be in danger so they have been taken into protective custody," Jones said. "We believe the children are in danger as a result of Aarone's death."
Thompson, Jones said, told police that Aarone had run away from home after an argument over a cookie. However, he said investigators now believe that Thompson's story was a "fabrication." Various factors, such as lack of cooperation and inconsistent statements, along with the phone call, have led police to consider Thompson and Lowe in the investigation.
"Over a period of days, of course you always have concerns, some of those things had to do with the family -- the demeanor, the inability to get things accomplished that we'd thought a family would want to get accomplished upon reporting a missing child," Jones said. "We were very, very fortunate that someone's conscience prompted them to call us with a piece of information that enabled us to get a search warrant for the home," said Jones.
If Thompson harmed Aarone, Jones said he does not know what prompted him to report her missing. However, he said that Aarone's birthday is Nov. 30 and "something triggered."
The girl's biological mother, Lynette Thompson, is staying in a homeless shelter in Detroit. She told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver that she hasn't seen Aarone since October 2001. She also believes her daughter was the victim of a crime.
"What does a 6-year-old know about running away?" she told the Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun.
Thompson said her estranged husband is known to have a temper and that she doesn't entirely believe his story that Aarone just fled the house after a fight. The girl's grandfather and grandmother said they talked to Aarone last Christmas, a family spokesman said.
Supporters of Aaron Thompson and Sheley Lowe criticized police for halting their search after only three days and say the girl's father and family have fully cooperated with investigators.
Spokesman Sam Riddle, told KMGH that every member of the family has given DNA samples, fingerprints and answered all of the questions posed by investigators.
"You can't cooperate more than this family," said Riddle. "Colorado law enforcement authorities ought to be showing a lot more compassion for this family and not misportraying them as being noncooperative ... Aurora police -- they need to go back to training because this is family that is in deep pain. Right now the grandfather and other members of the family are passing out leaflets throughout Aurora, trying to find this little girl."
"The thing that disturbs me a lot too is the disparity in treatment that is being afforded to the Thompson family, vis-à-vis, for example the (treatment) that was accorded to the JonBenet Ramsey family in Boulder, Colorado," Riddle continued. "There is a great disparity in terms of how this family is being treated versus the family of JonBenet Ramsey a few years ago," Riddle said.
Police acknowledged Thursday that the family did allow detectives to conduct one-on-one interviews but said Aarone's father was still not completely cooperative.
"The cooperation has improved but there's still more cooperation that needs to take place," Aurora police spokesman Marcus Dudley said.
Police today will search the Thompson home again. On Wednesday, the FBI searched the home and a trash truck, and police said agents found some items of interest and took them away for further inspection. Investigators would not say what the items were or whether they are involved in the case.
Police have been called to the Thompson home before. Aarone's brother, 11-year-old Aaron, was reported missing from the home in October. He returned a day later.
ABC News affiliate KMGH in Denver contributed to this report.