FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A missing 9-year-old Indiana girl has been found dead, and the neighbor who was watching her before she disappeared was arrested on a murder charge Monday night, authorities said.
The body of Aliahna Lemmon was found in northeast Indiana's Allen County, where her family lived in a mobile home park, but investigators aren't saying where the remains were found, sheriff's spokesman Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel said.
Mike Plumadore, who told local media that Aliahna went missing sometime Friday as he watched her and her sisters, was taken into custody late Monday after being interviewed by police, Tinkel said. He said the 39-year-old was facing a murder charge.
"He was a trusted family friend," Aliahna's step-grandfather, David Story, told The Associated Press late Monday, saying he was surprised by Plumadore's arrest.
Plumadore is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
FBI agents earlier Monday descended on the rundown mobile home park in Fort Wayne where Aliahna lived and was last seen. It's a known haven for registered sex offenders, though Plumadore is not on Indiana's registered sex offenders list. He has a criminal record in Florida and North Carolina that includes convictions for trespassing and assault.
More than 100 emergency workers searched for Aliahna around the mobile home park Saturday, though no active search was done Sunday. Tinkel said the same size search could not be sustained because of the Christmas holiday.
Elizabeth Watkins, who lives nearby, said residents of the mobile home park keep to themselves and she didn't know Plumadore. According to a state website, 15 registered sex offenders live in the park that numbers about two dozen homes, and Watkins said that makes people cautious and reserved.
"I'm numb, I'm totally numb," she said when told about the girl's death. "I don't know what to think."
Aliahna's mother, Tarah Souders, told The Journal Gazette earlier Monday that her daughter had vision and hearing problems and suffered from attention deficit disorder and emotional problems. Aliahna and her sisters were staying with Plumadore because their mother had been sick with the flu and Aliahna's stepfather works at night and sleeps during the day.
Plumadore told the newspaper Sunday that he left the three girls in his mobile home about 6 a.m. Friday and went to a gas station about a mile away to buy a cigar. Authorities have said the store's surveillance video shows him there about that time.
"I had dead-bolted the door," he said. "When I got back, all the girls was here."
He said he smoked his cigar and went back to sleep, then woke up about 10 a.m. when Aliahna's mother called. After that call, he realized the door to the home was unlocked and that Aliahna was gone. He said Aliahna's 6-year-old sisters told him Aliahna had left with her mother.
Plumadore said it wasn't until he talked with Aliahna's mother about 8:30 p.m. that they realized she was missing and police were notified.
Tarah Souders said the miscommunication caused the delay in determining that Aliahna had vanished.
"She's never wandered off," Souders said earlier Monday.