Normal Heights Man Held in Slaying of Girl, 6

A 30-year-old Normal Heights man was arrested Wednesday in connection with the Feb. 21 slaying of a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly beaten to death and whose body--still not recovered--is believed to have been dumped in an isolated river bed in Mission Valley, police said.

John Phillip Moncrief was booked at County Jail downtown on suspicion of murder after eye-witness statements linked him to the killing of Amber Rose Avey, whose mother was the suspect's live-in girlfriend, San Diego police said. At the time of his arrest, Moncrief was being held in the El Cajon jail on a spousal beating charge filed by the child's mother, Linda Williams.

The arrest came after Moncrief appeared in El Cajon Municipal Court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on the spousal beating charge. Moncrief has been in jail since Aug. 30 on that charge.

According to homicide Sgt. Bob Manis, investigators were told over the weekend by Williams and her 12-year-old son that the two witnessed the murder of Amber.

Witness information indicates the incident leading to Amber's death took place in the back of the suspect's van while it was parked in a parking lot in the Mission Bay area, police said.

Williams and her son told detectives they witnessed Moncrief beating Amber with his fists and a broom handle and kicking her for more than an hour, according to Manis.

Manis said detectives were told the girl's body was placed in a sleeping bag and thrown into the San Diego River. He said he did not expect the body will be found.

He said 42 reserve police officers and seven regular officers Saturday conducted an unsuccessful search for the body. However, a bloody sleeping bag was found in the area, he said.

Moncrief was living with Williams, her son, her 2-year-old daughter and Amber in the van at the time of the incident.

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