GBI: Suspect in girl's slaying worked in apartment complex
updated 6:49 PM EST, Wed December 7, 2011
Canton, Georgia (CNN) -- The suspect in the slaying of a 7-year-old Georgia girl worked in the apartment complex where she lived, investigators said Wednesday.
- NEW: A neighbor says she told police about a recent conversation with Ryan Brunn
- The 20-year-old was a maintenance worker at the apartments, authorities say
- A Facebook page says he recently moved to the area
- Authorities believe the crime was "planned and calculated"
Authorities arrested maintenance worker Ryan Brunn, 20, Wednesday afternoon.
He is charged with killing 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, who was last seen alive Friday near a playground at the apartment complex in Canton. Investigators found her body in a trash bin there three days later.
Tips from the public led authorities to Brunn, said Vernon Keenan, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Brunn had been working at the complex since November 7, authorities said.
"We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated," Keenan told reporters.
One resident of the complex said she told authorities about a recent conversation with Brunn, who told her someone could break into a vacant apartment in the complex and harm a child.
Jorelys was abducted "in the immediate vicinity" of the apartment complex's playground, then taken to an empty apartment nearby, Keenan said.
"We have evidence that the murder occurred in that vacant apartment," he said. "At some point, the child's body was then disposed of in the Dumpster and compacted into trash."
Authorities have said Jorelys died of blunt force trauma to the head, was stabbed and had been sexually assaulted.
Earlier, Keenan said investigators had found blood in an empty apartment.
When a boy from the area went missing for a few hours recently, neighbor Heather Johnson-Coker said Brunn mentioned the large number of vacant apartments in the complex.
"He said, and I quote, 'It would be really easy for someone to break in and do something to one of these children,'" Johnson-Coker told HLN Wednesday.
"I did talk to him on a daily basis and he seemed like a relatively nice guy. He wasn't socially awkward. He didn't seem to have any type of anger issue. He seemed like a regular, decent person who worked there to make a living just like anybody else," she said. "The statement at the time did not shock me. I did not think anything odd about it."
But Johnson-Corker said she told investigators about the conversation after Jorelys went missing.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead told CNN the 7-year-old's slaying was one of the most brutal crimes his agency has ever seen.
Brunn was one of hundreds of people investigators interviewed in their search for suspects, Keenan said Wednesday. Authorities arrested him after they had obtained enough evidence to connect him to the killing, Keenan said, but the investigation will continue for months.
"We are investigating all of the past history of Ryan Brunn and piecing together what he's been doing the last several years," Keenan said. "We have sent agents to other states and also to other counties and we're going to backtrack all of his activities and make a determination if he has been involved in other crimes. He has no known criminal history to us, but we will find out."
Posts on a Facebook page that friends said belonged to Brunn recently talked of plans to move to Canton from Dahlonega, Georgia.
"New job,apt,life coming soon," an October 6 post said. A post on November 5 said, "Today is moving day! Not ready to go but i got to."
The brutal killing has shaken residents of the apartment complex, located about 40 miles north of Atlanta.
Witnesses told CNN that some neighbors screamed profanities and threw things as authorities arrested Brunn there Wednesday.
"It's so close to home. To think she was just right there at the park and from there disappeared is the scariest thing," Maria Rodriguez, a friend of the girl's mother, told CNN before Brunn's arrest.
Johnson-Coker said Brunn was in a search party with her husband after Jorelys went missing.
"They were together searching not five feet from each other, and it just turns my stomach thinking about it," she said.
Relatives of the little girl were devastated by her death.
"My world collapsed," her father, Ricardo Galarza, told CNN affiliate WAPA in Puerto Rico. "I couldn't believe that they robbed her from me."
"They destroyed my soul," her grandmother, Wanda Ivette Rivera, told the same network. "They took a piece of my heart."
Another family member, Miriam Rivera, urged the state of Georgia to "throw the full weight of the law to the person who did this."
Brunn is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Cherokee County Courthouse in Canton, Keenan said.
CNN's Gustavo Valdes, Holly Firfer, Mike Brooks and Rich Phillips contributed to this report from Canton, Georgia. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta.