The prime suspect in the strangling death of a 9-year-old girl in Ohio made a 911 call about her disappearance and was the last person seen with her when the pair were building a snowman, according to media reports.
Jerrod Metsker, 24, lived next to Reann Murphy in a trailer park in Smithville, Ohio, where her body was discovered in a trash bin over the weekend, officials said. The county coroner determined Tuesday that the cause of death was strangulation.
In the 911 call about her disappearance Saturday obtained by the Wooster Daily Record, the caller identifies himself as Metsker. "Everybody’s out searching for her and we can’t find her," says the caller, who adds that he's calling from his mother's cordless phone. He can be heard shouting to other residents.
Another man who takes the phone says that Reann was out playing in the snow and that she had been wearing a brown Carhartt coat with an Ohio State University coat underneath.
Investigators told the Associated Press that Metsker had a "diminished mental capacity" but weren't more specific, and that he'd been building a snowman with Reann before she was reported missing.
What ties Metsker to Reann's death beyond circumstantial evidence was not yet clear, as officials have been been relatively tight-lipped about the investigation.
Wayne County Sheriff's Capt. Douglas Hunter told WKYC-TV that after Metsker's arrest, "He made a limited statement, but it was short of a full confession.” He added of Reann, "She not only was killed, but she was thrown in the trash like a piece of household garbage, and that is exactly why it is disturbing to myself and everyone else."
In a follow-up phone interview Tuesday with the Los Angeles Times, Hunter declined to comment to the Los Angeles Times about Metsker's arrest beyond what the sheriff's office had posted on its website, which details little about the evidence justifying Metsker's arrest. The Wayne County prosecutor's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Neighbors told WKYC that Metsker had been one of the residents leading the search for Reann and seemed impatient when she wasn't found. A neighbor, Shari Rose, told WKYC that Metsker often played with younger children at the trailer park but that she never saw him as a threat.
"I just thought he was like a little kid," Rose said, adding that after officials arrived, "Jerrod refused to take the DNA test. Every man in the trailer park got a DNA test.”
Metsker has been charged with one count of aggravated murder. He was arraigned Monday and ordered held on $1 million bond, and his next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 23.