Make us your home page

Investigators get more than 1,000 tips in Florida girl's death

ORANGE PARK — Investigators have more than a thousand tips but are still trying to figure out what happened when 7-year-old Somer Thompson disappeared on her walk home from a North Florida school last week.

At a fundraiser Sunday for Somer's family, children played in a bounce house as adults watched carefully. They vowed to find the girl's killer and raised about $18,500 so her mother doesn't have to go back to work immediately.

Somer's name and photo were everywhere at the carnival-like fundraiser, which was held in a park in the town's center. A silent raffle, a bake sale and even glittery makeovers for little girls were offered to help the family.

Somer disappeared after school Monday. Her body was found in a Georgia landfill Wednesday.

Amanda Wendorff, the wife of a Clay County sheriff's deputy and a co-organizer of the fundraiser, urged people at the carnival to be on the lookout for anyone suspicious — underscoring the fear that is running deep in the community.

Meanwhile, detectives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are combing through tips: More than 1,150 calls from people around the country have poured in regarding the little girl.

So far, no one has come forward to say they saw the girl abducted or attacked. Investigators have ruled out all 161 registered sex offenders who live within a 5-mile radius of Somer's home.

Somer's mother, Diena Thompson, has praised the hard work of investigators.

When reached Sunday, Thompson declined an interview.

A public viewing and funeral are planned for today and Tuesday, but graveside services and the burial will be private.

Dozens of mourners and supporters have held nightly vigils outside the Thompsons' home.

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

Family and friends described Somer as a friendly little girl who rode her scooter around the neighborhood.

Tina Justyna said her daughter, 11, would often go to the library with Somer at school, and the pair would look at books about kittens and puppies. Her daughter is devastated that Somer is gone, she said.

"I don't let her watch the news," Justyna said. "She lost one of the few friends she had."

Associated Press writer Ron Word contributed to this report.

Investigators get more than 1,000 tips in Florida girl's death 10/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 25, 2009 9:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours