Wayne County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office
Jerrod E. Metsker, 24, was arrested Sunday and charged with aggravated murder in the death of Leann Murphy, 9, of Smithville, Ohio.
An Ohio man was held on $1 million bail Monday as authorities revealed that the 9-year-old girl he is accused of killing was strangled with an object.
Jerrod E. Metsker, 24, was charged with a single count of aggravated murder in the death of Reann Murphy, with whom he'd been building a snowman a few hours before she was reported missing Saturday night in Smithville, about 30 miles southwest of Akron, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said.
Reann's body was found Sunday morning in a trash dump behind her family's home, which is about 50 yards from Metsker's home, said Wayne County Sheriff Travis Hutchinson, who described Metsker as an acquaintance of the girl, who lived with her mother.
Wayne County Coroner Amy Jolliff told NBC News that a preliminary autopsy finding Monday showed that Reann was strangled with an unknown object.
Sheriff's Capt. Doug Hunter told reporters that Metsker acknowledged only that he was playing with Reann before she disappeared. He noted that the case was personal for investigators, many of whom are parents.
"She was not only killed," Hunter said. "She was thrown in the trash like a piece of household garbage."
Neighbors told NBC station WKYC of Cleveland that Metsker made one of the 911 calls to report Reann's being missing and helped lead the search to find her. They said he seemed impatient when she wasn't found quickly.
Sheri Rose, a neighbor, said Metsker often played outside with the neighborhood children, telling WKYC that he was "like a little kid" who never caused parents any concern.
Authorities didn't discuss a possible motive at Metsker's arraignment Monday morning in Wayne County Municipal Court. He was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Dec. 23, according to Wayne County court records, which showed that a public defender hadn't yet been appointed to represent him.
Reann's father, Richard Murphy, who is separated from Reann's mother, attended Metsker's arraignment and said, "I hope he fries."
Murphy said he first learned that his daughter was missing when Reann's mother called to ask whether he had taken their daughter. Once authorities determined that he wasn't responsible, Murphy joined the search for Reann, he said.
"I just want you to know, Reann, I love you with all my heart, and I miss you very much," he told reporters after the arraignment.
Nicole DeChant of NBC News contributed to this report.
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First published December 16 2013, 5:54 PM