The motive behind the killing of 3-year-old Missouri girl Breeann Rodriguez remains a mystery even after a neighbor arrested Saturday has confessed that he suffocated the child with a plastic bag before dumping her body in a ditch.
Authorities found the remains of Rodriguez, who was missing for more than a week, on Tuesday, near a series of ditches about eight miles southeast of the girl's family's home in Senath.
According to a joint statement sent Tuesday night from prosecutors and law enforcement officers in the area, a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer found the missing girl's body. The parents of the girl were notified shortly after she was found.
"We appreciate all the help and support from the community in what has been a difficult time for all," Dunklin County Sheriff Bob Holder said in the statement, the AP reported. "We are saddened to confirm our fears but glad we have been able to recover her for her parents."
Breeann was last seen Aug. 6 riding her pink bike with training wheels in front of her home.
The 43-year-old suspect, Shawn Morgan, told agent Tim Trowbridge of the Bootheel Drug Task Force that he found the child on a ladder in his backyard pool, grabbed her and carried her inside his home, where he suffocated her with a white plastic trash bag. Morgan told Trowbridge it "felt like it took an hour for the girl to die." He carried the girl's body in the same plastic bag which he used to suffocate her and drove to the floodway and dumped the bag in the ditch. He went back home and dismantled her pink bike and threw it in the same area of the river system.
But the suspect offered no motive. "It's all a mystery," Julie Crowder of the Dunklin County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday.
Morgan appeared in the court on Tuesday, wearing a bulletproof vest for his safety, but did not enter a plea. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 30. He has been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence.
Neighbor Ronnie Newman, 66, whose son went to high school with Morgan, said the suspect is married with three children ranging in age from about 8 to about 14. He works at a factory in Paragould, Ark., the AP reported.
The search for the missing child began at around 2 a.m. Aug. 7, a day after Rodriguez went missing. Newman recollects Morgan joining the neighbors who gathered to talk about the FBI-police search.
"He came down and talked to us, talking like nothing was going on," Newman said. "We were all wondering how somebody could do something like that, and he was saying the same thing."