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Authorities may pursue death penalty in Missouri girl's slaying

From Chris Perry, In Session
Breeann Rodriguez, 3, was last seen August 6 in front of her home in Senath, Missouri.
Breeann Rodriguez, 3, was last seen August 6 in front of her home in Senath, Missouri.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Shawn Morgan could face death penalty in case of Breeann Rodriguez
  • The girl was last seen riding her bicycle with her brother
  • Affidavit: Morgan told police he suffocated the girl with a plastic trash bag
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(CNN) -- Prosecutors have filed an additional charge and may seek the death penalty against a Missouri man who allegedly admitted to suffocating his 3-year-old neighbor.

Shawn Morgan, 43, was previously charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence. He now is also accused of child kidnapping, a Class "A" felony, said Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff after a counsel status hearing Tuesday.

Breeann Rodriguez was last seen on August 6, riding her pink bicycle with her brother outside their home in Senath, in the "bootheel" of Missouri. Her body was found more than a week later about 8 to 10 miles from her home.

Prosecutors filed a notice of statutory aggravating circumstances that makes Morgan eligible for the death penalty if convicted on the murder charge, Sokoloff told In Session. Officials have not said whether they will pursue a capital sentence.

Morgan does not yet have an attorney and has not entered a plea.

On Tuesday, a judge gave the suspect until September 13 to find private counsel, seek assistance from a public defender or ask to represent himself. A preliminary hearing may be held in late September or early October, Sokoloff said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police interviewed Morgan after his arrest at the police department in Kennett, a larger community about 10 miles northeast of Senath.

The suspect said he spotted the girl standing on a ladder by the pool in his backyard and that he grabbed the girl and carried her inside his house, according to the affidavit. There, according to the court document, the man "suffocated the girl with a white plastic trash bag, by holding it over her face and mouth.

"Morgan states that he felt like it took an hour for the girl to die," the document adds.

It says Morgan told police he put the girl's body into the same trash bag, and then drove to Missouri's Highway 164 and got rid of the body by throwing it over a railing into a floodway ditch.

After returning home, Morgan said, he then dismantled the girl's bike and dumped it into another, related waterway, the document says.

The suspect, who Sokoloff said has three children of his own, is being held at the Dunklin County Justice Center.

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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