Mourners anxiously await capture of Fla. girl's killer
by Ron Word and Tamara Lush
Associated Press Writers
October 25, 2009 01:00 AM | 895 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A car’s rear window asks for ‘Justice for Somer’ in Orange Park, Fla., on Friday. Somer was last seen Monday afternoon, and her body was found in a Folkston landfill Wednesday.
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ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Dozens of parents, their young children in tow, have filed past the mountainous makeshift memorial for a 7-year-old girl found slain in a landfill about 50 miles from her suburban neighborhood.

They were angry, sad and many afraid as they waited for detectives to scour the area for clues to what happened to Somer Thompson as she walked home from school Monday.

"We have to protect our children," sobbed 37-year-old Patricia Navarro, who brought her two children, ages 9 and 16 months, to Somer's neighborhood on Saturday morning. "We have to catch this person and put him away."

Navarro gazed at the mountain of Hannah Montana balloons, stuffed animals and candles that have burned so long that the wax has melted into the grass.

Missing child posters featuring the slain girl's face, framed by her thick brown bangs, still plaster nearly every utility pole along the mile-long route from her elementary school to her suburban Jacksonville home. The posters - and a large Crimestoppers sign offering rewards for tips that could solve the case - are a jarring sight amid the Little League games and Halloween decorations throughout Orange Park.

Vonda Durden, 60, visited the site from Woodbine with her 14-year-old granddaughter.

"It's a nice-looking neighborhood, nice houses, nice people," she said, shaking her head. "And you can't even let a little child walk these streets."

Somer was last seen alive walking along the sidewalk in front of a vacant house, and authorities said they're searching for anyone who saw what happened to the 7-year-old after that. Investigators sifted through evidence from that vacant house and the Georgia landfill where her body was found Wednesday.

So far, no witnesses have come forward to say they saw Somer attacked or abducted, Clay County Sheriff's spokeswoman Mary Justino said.

"What we've been trying to figure out is who frequents that area, because obviously it's more than just the people who live there," she said.

The child's teary but resolute mother appeared on television interviews and warned her daughter's killer: "We'll get you." She pleaded for anyone with information to "please, please tell" police.

The day after the child's body was identified, authorities said they had ruled out all 161 registered sex offenders who lived within a 5-mile radius of Somer's home.

Neighbors said they were used to watching out for each other's children as they walked to and from school.

Marie Spires of New Richmond, Ohio, is Somer's maternal great grandmother. She walked out of the family's home Saturday afternoon to look at the growing memorial.

"I'm shocked that this could happen in this type of community," she said. "And that no one would see or hear anything."

An autopsy has been completed and investigators know how Somer died, but authorities won't disclose their findings or any details about the body.

Spires said she doesn't know how the little girl died and detectives have not shared any theories about who killed Somer.

At a vigil held outside the Thompsons' home Friday night, Somer's mother said she would not be able to see her daughter's body.

"They are going to give me a lock of her hair," Diena Thompson said.

Mourning neighbors and others have gathered every night outside the home. On Friday, the mother joined them to sing Somer's favorite song, "You Are My Sunshine."

Diena Thompson has declined requests for interviews. She spent part of the day Friday making funeral arrangements, and a law enforcement officer was seen carrying a child's white dress from the family's home. A viewing will be conducted Monday night and a funeral will follow on Tuesday.
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