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Caution urged in wake of Polk girl's kidnap, killing

A Polk County sheriff's official warned Sunday that "our children are still at risk," and urged residents to take safety precautions, lock their doors and be wary of strangers.

"The thing that's so frightening," said Maj. Grady Judd, is that the killer of 11-year-old Kimberly Ann Waters is still "here among us."

Judd said investigators have no firm suspects in the murder of the Lakeland girl, but are continuing to follow leads. They confiscated the trash bin in which the body of Waters was found Friday afternoon.

"We'll go through everything with a fine-toothed comb over the next few days," Judd said. He said 20 deputies and detectives are working on the case full time.

"We have information on a number of people," Judd said, "but to call them suspects would be premature."

He said the investigation is focusing on the area around Waters' home at 2537 Tanglewood St., northeast of Lakeland. She disappeared from there sometime early Friday.

Her 13-year-old sister, Crystal, last saw the girl asleep on her mother's bed about 3 a.m.

But when their mother, Beverly Schultz, came home from her nursing job about three hours later, Kimberly Waters was gone.

Deputies searching for the missing child found her body about 4:35 p.m. in a trash bin less than a half-mile from her home, outside the Moose Lodge at 1223 E Lake Parker Drive.

Though Waters' abduction and murder resemble other recent cases involving attacks on children, Judd said it is premature to say whether the cases are linked.

A few weeks ago an 8-year-old girl in Manatee County was kidnapped from her bedroom and raped in nearby woods. Investigators there believe her attacker fled on a bicycle.

Judd would say little about Waters' murder, other than the detectives and the killer know exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people have been interviewed about the case. "We believe the people of the community can help us solve this," Judd said. "Historically, cases are solved the quickest when the community comes forward."

He said people who know anything at all about the case can provide information anonymously.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Polk County Sheriff's Office at (813) 533-0344 in Polk County, or toll-free at (800) 226-0344.