|Body of Missing 3-Year-Old Rodriguez Found|
|By KATTI GRAY, DEAN SCHABNER, NINA TERRERO and KEVIN DOLAK (@kdolak)||Aug 16, 2011, 11:50 PM|
Authorities have found the body of missing 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez in Dunklin County, Mo., after an exhaustive search that began when the girl went missing while riding her bike near her home.
The body was found in a drainage ditch at 9 p.m. CST Tuesday, according to Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff. The man charged in the murder of Rodriguez is currently in police custody.
Shawn Morgan, 43, a steel factory worker, father of three and neighbor of the girl, was arrested around 11 p.m. Friday. He has already been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence, and faces three counts including first-degree murder, Sokoloff said.
Authorities have not said what led them to arrest Morgan.
"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."
Morgan said that he found the tot on a ladder in his backyard pool, grabbed her and carried her inside his home, according to a probable cause statement an agent filed with the court. Morgan then suffocated her with a white plastic trash bag.
Morgan told the agent that it "felt like it took an hour for the girl to die," according to the statement. He didn't say why he killed the child.
Morgan allegedly said he put the child's body in the same trash bag he used to kill her and drove to the floodway — a low-lying undeveloped area along a state road — and threw the bag over a railing into a ditch, the Associated Press reproted. He said he then went home and dismantled the girl's bike, which he dumped in the same area of the river system.
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 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 was gone.
"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 earlier this week.
Billboards with Breeann's picture 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.
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.