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Body of missing Georgia girl, 7, found

By Antoinette Campbell, CNN
updated 9:45 PM EST, Mon December 5, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "How do we know the killer is not still here," a neighbor asks
  • GBI Director Vernon Keenan calls the crime "horrendous"
  • Officials find the girl's body in a trash bin after expanding the search area
  • The FBI joined local officials in the expanded search for the missing 7-year-old on Monday

Atlanta (CNN) -- Police have found the body of a 7-year-old Georgia girl who went missing more than two days ago, the state's chief law enforcement official said Monday.

Police believe Jorelys Rivera was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered at her apartment complex in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, said Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Director Vernon Keenan.

"This is going to be a very, very horrendous crime. I am convinced of that after having observed the body. A child death is always a terrible thing, but a child who dies under extreme violence is the absolute worst thing," he told reporters.

An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of death, Keenan said.

The girl was last seen Friday near a playground at her apartment. Police initially thought she might have wandered off, but after more than 48 hours of searching, they said they believed the girl was kidnapped.

Canton police, assisted by the FBI and the GBI, expanded the search area Monday and began canvassing for sex offenders living nearby. They are now asking for help to find out who killed the little girl. Her body was found in a dumpster at the apartment complex where she lived.

Missing 7-year-old body found

"We need help from the public," said Police Chief Jeff Lance. As of Monday afternoon, Keenan said, investigators were actively pursuing leads, but police had no one in custody and no suspects.

"Quite frankly, at this point we do not have a strong suspect. We've not focused in on anyone. We very much need information from the public who may know something about the abduction of this child," said Keenan.

State troopers were stopping and talking to everyone entering, leaving or driving by the apartment complex Monday afternoon.

Earlier, as volunteers and police handed out fliers with information and a picture of the missing child, her mother spent the morning in court trying to regain custody of her other children, who were taken by the Department of Family and Children's Services for alleged lack of supervision.

The girl's parents are not suspects, Keenan said.

Joselin Rivera had spoken with local media hours after her young daughter went missing Friday, saying she just wanted her returned safely.

After the girl's body was found, neighbors said they feared for their safety. Speaking in Spanish, Luis Fernando Montenegro said he was concerned for his daughter, who attends night school.

"If she (Rivera) was abducted here and her body was also found here in the (apartment) complex, how do we know the killer is not still here?" he asked.

CNN's Holly Firfer and Gustavo Valdes contributed to this report.

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