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Body found in deserted factory likely that of missing girl

A body believed to be that of a 6-year-old girl who vanished Friday morning was found in an abandoned glass factory in the afternoon, and police arrested a man who spent the night at her father's home where she was staying.

Cassandra Williamson was reported missing Friday morning from her father's home in suburban St. Louis. A body, believed to be Cassandra, was found Friday afternoon at the factory a few blocks away after a search that went door to door.

St. Louis County police Chief Ron Battelle said the body had not been identified, "but we feel certain it is her."

Battelle said an autopsy was planned to determine the cause of death; he did not describe the condition of the body.

Battelle said Johnny Johnson, 24, was arrested and was cooperating with police; charges had not been filed. Johnson spent the night at a home shared by Cassandra's father, Ernie Williamson, and a roommate, the father said.

Ernie Williamson and Cassandra's mother, Angela Williamson, had separated but still spent some nights together at a neighbor's home, where Ernie Williamson had been staying for about a week. Thursday night, the entire family _ Ernie and Angela Williamson and their four children _ stayed at the home.

Police described Johnson as a local transient who sometimes slept in the factory. Ernie Williamson said that he had known Johnson only a few days and that his roommate and Johnson were up late drinking the night before. He said Johnson was sleeping on the couch Friday morning.

Authorities said Cassandra was in the kitchen about 7:30 a.m. with her father. Williamson said he was about to pour his daughter a bowl of cereal and left the room briefly to go the bathroom. When he returned, the girl, barefoot and dressed in a white nightgown, was gone.

The father said he also noticed that Johnson was gone. About a half-hour later, Williamson said, Johnson returned to the house, wet and muddy, and said he had been swimming in the nearby river. Police began questioning him soon after he returned.

Before the body was found, Cassandra's mother, Angela, said: "She never walks off without telling me she's going somewhere. She doesn't even go to her friend's house without telling me she was going. I just want my baby."

As word of the disappearance spread, volunteers began joining in the search, which also included helicopters and bloodhounds. Many were looking around an area along the Meramec River, which runs through Valley Park in southwest St. Louis County.

Several cases of child abductions involving young girls have been in the news in recent weeks.