WOOSTER, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man pleaded not guilty Thursday in the rape and strangulation of a 9-year-old girl whose body was found in a trash bin at the trailer park where they were neighbors.
One of Jerrod Metsker's court-appointed attorneys entered the pleas for him in Wayne County court. Metsker, wearing a red jail outfit with his wrists handcuffed, appeared via video and did not speak during the brief hearing.
A grand jury had indicted the 24-year-old Metsker on charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape. He is being held on $1 million bond. Authorities previously said the death penalty would be available as punishment if Metsker is convicted of murder.
Metsker was the last person seen with 9-year-old Reann Murphy at their trailer park in Smithville, southwest of Akron, authorities said. A caller identifying himself as Metsker reported Reann missing in a 911 call.
Her body was found Dec. 15 after a frantic search by neighbors and law enforcement. Metsker was arrested later that day. The prosecutor said she was likely killed at Metsker's mobile home between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 14.
On that day, the girl had been at home with her mother's live-in boyfriend while her mother was at work, authorities said. Reann went outside to play in the snow and was with several other children in the trailer park's courtyard, but the others went home, leaving Metsker alone with her.
Her father, Richard Murphy, said Thursday that he was supposed to have Reann at his house in Creston that weekend but was not able to reach her mother for the exchange. He said he last saw her the day after Thanksgiving.
Investigators with the Wayne County sheriff's office earlier described Metsker as a family friend and neighbor. Capt. Douglas Hunter said Metsker has a "diminished mental capacity," but didn't release information about a specific diagnosis.
A judge was assigned to the case, but it wasn't clear when the next hearing would be scheduled.