New York police have arrested a man and accused him of murdering an 11-year-old girl as he attempted to rape her, according to NYup.com.
James Brower, 36, was charged with first-degree murder and has entered a plea of not guilty, as reported by USA Today.
The 36-year-old is alleged to have smothered Jacelyn O’Connor to death. When troopers arrived shortly after 11 a.m., after an unknown caller reported the girl was in cardiac arrest, she was already dead, according to police. An autopsy confirmed that the child died by asphyxiation.
The alleged attack happened early Sunday morning, as noted by New York State Police Investigator Jamieson Tefft. Authorities have said that Brower was connected to the family through a distant family relationship.
Brad Keater, minister with Chenango Christian Church, spoke of the family connection between the alleged culprit and victim but admitted that it was confusing, according to USA Today.
“I’m not going to get into any fact, but to relieve any fears in the community about stranger incidents, there was a relationship. The defendant has two sons, and the victim was the half-sibling of the defendant’s two sons,” he said.
The 11-year-old was beloved by her family, friends and community. Her school district spoke about the tragic loss via a Facebook post.
“Jacelyn O’ Connor was a bright, spunky loved student at Morris Central School. We are all deeply saddened by this loss,” the post reads. “It is a tragedy that is difficult to comprehend for us all.”
A candlelight vigil is planned for Monday. A felony hearing for Brower is scheduled for Tuesday. He has been denied bail.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact New York State Police in Norwich at 607-334-3296.
[Featured Image: New York State Police]