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Georgia girl, 7, died of head trauma, stabbing, investigators say

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:58 PM EST, Tue December 6, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jorelys Rivera likely died 1 to 1 1/2 hours after she disappeared
  • She died of blunt force trauma to the head, investigators say
  • Jorelys, 7, had also been stabbed and sexually assaulted
  • The killer likely lives in or has ready access to the apartment complex , authorities say

Atlanta (CNN) -- A 7-year-old girl whose body was found in a trash bin outside her Georgia apartment building died of blunt force trauma to the head, was stabbed and had been sexually assaulted, authorities said Tuesday.

The killer probably lives in the apartment complex where the child lived or had ready access to it, said Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"We have multiple leads we feel are valuable and we're going to carry those out," he said.

Sixty-five state and federal investigators are trying to piece together the events that led to the killing of Jorelys Rivera at an apartment complex in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, where the girl was found three days after she went missing.

Jorelys likely died between an hour and an hour and a half after she disappeared, Keenan said.

Keenan also said that investigators uncovered what they believe is blood in a vacant apartment unit. They do not currently have any suspects in custody, he added.

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Relatives of the little girl mourned 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."

Police have asked for help from the public to find out who killed the little girl.

She was last seen alive 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 she was kidnapped.

"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.

Canton police, assisted by the FBI and the GBI, expanded the search area Monday and began canvassing for sex offenders living nearby.

Earlier in the day, 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 over the weekend in the wake of Jorelys' disappearance for alleged lack of supervision. Her request was denied and the children remain in DFAC's custody, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department.

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.

CNN's Gustavo Valdes contributed to this report.

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