By Alexis Stevens
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An arrest has been made in the Jorelys Rivera homicide case, the GBI told the AJC.
Vernon Keenan declined to identify the man, but investigators plan to release more details in the case at a 1:45 p.m. press conference today, Lt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said. The press conference will be aired live on Channel 2 Action News and AM 750 and Now 95.5 FM Newstalk WSB.
The suspect appeared to be a young man, wearing a navy blue shirt, a blue hoodie and jeans, and was taken into custody Canton apartment complex where the little girl lived. Keenan told the AJC the man did not have any connection to the 7-year-old girl prior to her disappearance.
It was not immediately clear if the suspect lived or worked in the complex.
Neighbors in the complex told the AJC they were relieved at news of an arrest. Lorenza Wright said he heard the news, along with his mother and brother, when he went home for a lunch break.
“We all burst into tears,” Wright said. “We were ecstatic.”
The Canton girl’s body was discovered Monday died of blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds, the GBI said Tuesday. Jorelys Rivera had also been sexually assaulted, GBI Director Vernon Keenan said at a news conference in Canton.
Keenan also said investigators found what they believe to be blood in a vacant apartment unit, and that substance is being tested at the State Crime Lab to determine if it is linked to Jorelys. Keenan said investigators believe Jorelys was killed within two hours of her disappearance Friday.
As of Tuesday morning, police did not have any suspects or anyone in custody, Keenan said. But the investigation is now focused on the River Ridge complex where Jorelys lived and may have been killed.
“We believe the suspect lives or has readily access to the complex,” Keenan told the AJC.
There are 65 local, state and federal investigators currently working on the case, Baker said Tuesday. Numerous tips have been reported to police, Baker told the AJC.
“Several search warrants have been executed thus far and hundreds of interviews have been conducted,” Baker said.
Several registered sex offenders live in the vicinity of the apartment complex, and investigators have extensively interviewed all of them, Keenan said.
“We don’t have any reason to believe any of them were involved,” he said.
Hours after Jorelys’ body was found at the apartment complex where she lived, her Cherokee County neighbors and friends held a candlelight vigil Monday night in her honor at the same playground where she was last seen. Her body was found Monday afternoon in a metal trash bin, the GBI said.
At the River Ridge apartments, neighbors were shocked and saddened about the fate of the girl, a friendly child often seen playing outside with other children. The playground where Jorelys often played is across the street from the apartment where she lived. And Monday night, it was at the playground where the community mourned the girl.
On the fourth day of the search for Jorelys, a 50-member team made up of GBI agents, Georgia State Patrol troopers, Department of Natural Resources rangers and other state officers specially trained in child abductions was brought in Monday to assist local police and firefighters. Police said they believed they were working a child abduction case.
Searchers combed the apartment complex, checking every vehicle and some apartments for any clues to the girl’s whereabouts. The parking lot of a nearby movie theater served as the command center for search efforts, which included a state patrol helicopter Monday.