A convicted sex offender was arrested in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Naomi Jones. The 12-year-old’s body was found in a Pensacola, Florida, creek five days after her disappearance.
According to CBS News, police arrested Robert Letroy Howard, 38, of East Brewton, Alabama, early Thursday. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said that Howard frequently stayed with his girlfriend at the Aspen Village apartment complex where Jones also lived.
“We’ve found our monster,” Morgan announced during Thursday’s press conference.
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As Crime Online previously reported, Jones vanished on May 31 after taking the family dog for a walk. The victim’s mother told local news station WEAR that her daughter left again after dropping off the dog back at home and never returned.
Fishermen discovered the tween’s body Monday afternoon in Eight Mile Creek, about four miles from where she lived.
A preliminary autopsy report obtained by Al.com indicated that Jones died of asphyxiation.
Police reportedly interviewed Howard in the first days of Naomi’s disappearance as part of a neighborhood canvas. And though he claimed he was in Alabama when the girl vanished, surveillance cameras reportedly caught the 38-year-old by the creek where Jones’ body was later found.
The sheriff also said that the girlfriend’s apartment was close to Jones’ apartment and that the slain girl knew Howard.
Records obtained by People revealed that the Alabama man was convicted of two counts of rape in 1999. He served 15 years for the crime, which involved two adult women.
Howard is currently charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and failure to register as a sex offender. He was denied bond for the murder charge during a Friday court appearance, according to WKRG.
The Pensacola News Journal reported that Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said that the state could possibly seek the death penalty. He said they’ll consider the victim’s age, how she died, and Howard’s criminal history when seeking a sentence.
“The factors of the case do indicate there are circumstances that would justify the death sentence,” Marcille stated during Friday’s press conference.
Howard is being held without bond and is due back in court on June 30.
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