More than four dozen investigators searched a floodway near the Mississippi River on Tuesday, hoping to find the body of a 3-year-old girl who was apparently killed by a neighbor and dumped in a ditch.
Breeann Rodriguez was last seen Aug. 6 riding her pink bike with training wheels in front of her family's home in Senath in far southeastern Missouri. Her parents insisted she would not have ridden farther than the end of the street _ and they were right.
On Saturday, authorities announced they had arrested a neighbor, Shawn Morgan. Morgan, 43, 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, according to a probable cause statement the agent filed.
Morgan told Trowbridge it "felt like it took an hour for the girl to die," according to the statement. He did not say why he killed the child.
He has been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence. He made a first court appearance Tuesday, and his arraignment was rescheduled for Aug. 30 to allow him time to find an attorney. He remains jailed without bond.
Several calls to police and prosecutors for more details were not returned Tuesday.
A search of online court records did not show any previous charges against Morgan.
Morgan told Trowbridge he put the child's body in the same trash bag he used to kill her and drove to the floodway _ a low-lying undeveloped area along a state road _ and threw the bag over a railing into a ditch. He said he then went home and dismantled the girl's bike, which he dumped in the same area of the river system.
The bike and training wheels have been found.
Investigators hoping to find the body looked Tuesday in a series of ditches near Hornersville, about six miles from Senath. Dunklin County Sheriff Bob Holder said search dogs, two helicopters and several boats were helping in the search. He told the Kennett Daily Dunklin Democrat that so far, no clues have turned up.