Judge Frank Mills formally read the charges against Ryan McCabe Brunn, 20, regarding the death of Jorelys Rivera, the 7-year-old Canton girl whose body was found Monday in a metal trash bin.
Brunn, who is being represented by attorneys David Cannon, Sr. and J. Daran Burns, has been charged with murder and giving false statements to police.
He was brought into the courtroom wearing a bulletproof vest over his county-issued orange jump suit.
Brunn appeared nervous and often bit his lip during the hearing, but did not show much further emotion.
He replied “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” when Mills asked if he could read and write, and if he understood the charges against him.
Brunn told Mills he received up to a 10th-grade education and no one other than his court-appointed counsel was with him in the courtroom.
Brunn occasionally surveyed the audience inside the at-capacity courtroom and routinely held his head down near his lap.
At one point, a sheriff’s deputy had to direct Brunn to pay attention to the proceedings.
Going forward in the case, County District Attorney Garry Moss will draft an indictment for a grand jury to consider and an arraignment will follow.
Moss said the indictment could come in January or later.
Cannon said Burns met with Brunn at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center, and said his client is well aware of the nature of the charges.
“He’s certainly concerned about the seriousness of the charges,” he said. “He understands that the charges are very, very serious.”
Cannon said he and Burns will proceed with the case “as if our client is not guilty,” but added there’s a lot more work to be done, since he was appointed to the case less than 24 hours after his client was arrested.
When asked if he’d been in contact with this family, Cannon said Burns spoke with Brunn’s father, who lives outside the state.
Jorelys Rivera, who lived in River Ridge at Canton apartments of Reinhardt College Parkway, was last seen alive by people around a playground in the complex Friday evening.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said investigators believe Jorelys was abducted near the playground and taken to a vacant apartment unit adjacent to where she lived, where she was beaten, stabbed, sexually assaulted and killed. Scores of volunteers pitched in to help law enforcement officials search for her Friday evening and over the weekend.
Officials discovered Jorelys’ body around noon Monday in a metal trash bin, originally located near the front part of the apartment complex.
The bin, which included a trash compactor, had to be moved off-site so deputies could have room to remove the large amount of trash.
GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Wednesday they were “confident” Brunn was the man responsible for the crime.
Keenan said Brunn had access to the trash compactor and Jorelys’ body had been compacted, along with the trash, before it was discovered.
Keenan said more charges could be brought against Brunn once results of evidence processed by the GBI’s crime lab is revealed.
Jorelys’ death has received national media attention and has garnered public outcry and disbelief.
Jorelys’ two younger siblings were placed in the care of Cherokee County Department of Family and Children Services during the investigation, but other media outlets reported Thursday evening the children had been returned to the family’s custody.
Local residents have organized prayer vigils and collected money to help Jorelys’ family. Facebook pages have also been created, denouncing Brunn and the crimes he’s been charged with.
A public viewing will be conducted at 5 this evening at Darby Funeral Home in downtown Canton. Jorelys’ funeral will be conducted at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Canton.
Residents have also organized a candlelight vigil tonight at 6 at Heritage Park in Canton to remember Jorelys.
Not much is known about Brunn. His Facebook page, which was removed Wednesday afternoon, indicated he moved to Canton in November and he would be working as a groundskeeper at the apartment complex.
The page also stated he is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., speaks both Spanish and English, and is an NFL, NBA and college football fan.
The Tribune also learned Brunn at one time likely worked at a Krystal’s restaurant off Georgia 400 in Dawsonville. The Tribune contacted the restaurant Thursday and was directed to the company’s corporate office. A person there said the company had no comment.
When asked if he believed his client could get a fair trial, Cannon said, “it’s a little premature” to make that determination, but added it could become a concern as the pre-trial proceedings move forward.
One River Ridge at Canton resident who attended Thursday’s hearing told reporters after the court proceeding that he was wary of Brunn when he first started working at the complex.
Jesus Palomino said Brunn “would look at people” in a weird way, and he said, “It didn’t feel right” when he worked there.
Palomino, 19, said he attended Thursday’s hearing because he wanted to see Brunn in person and said he “does not trust anybody right now.”
Palomino said his younger cousin can’t sleep at night and her family is thinking about moving out of the complex.
Palomino also questioned why it took three days to find Jorelys’ body.
He also said he plans to take advantage of the counseling services that the apartment complex’s management company is offering residents.
Palomino, who said his younger cousin was in the same first-grade class with Jorelys at Canton Elementary School, added he and the entire community is shocked by the young girl’s death.
“It’s unbelievable that something like this could happen,” he said.