A babysitter and trusted neighbor has confessed that he bludgeoned a 9-year-old Indiana girl to death with a brick then dismembered her, hiding her head, hands and feet at a home where he was staying and dumping the rest of her remains nearby, police said Tuesday.
Allen County sheriff's investigators said in an affidavit that 39-year-old Michael Plumadore admits he killed Aliahna Lemmon on Thursday.
According to the affidavit, Plumadore told police that after beating Aliahna to death on the front steps of the home in the early morning hours, he stuffed her body into trash bags and hid her in the freezer at the home in a rundown trailer park in Fort Wayne. He said he later chopped up her body with a hacksaw and stuffed her remains into freezer bags.
Police said Plumadore told them he had hidden Aliahna's head, feet and hands at the trailer and discarded her other remains at a nearby business. Police obtained a warrant to search the trailer on Monday and found the body parts.
Authorities didn't say Tuesday why Plumadore killed the child, but Sheriff Ken Fries said investigators suspected Plumadore was involved since soon after she was reported missing Friday night.
Investigators questioned him Friday and Saturday and he was arrested Monday after being interviewed by detectives for several hours more.
Fries said his long police career told him that Plumadore's account of the girl's disappearance had too many inconsistencies.
"Things that were said in 29 years of doing this that just didn't make sense," Fries said during a Tuesday news conference. "We needed to get him to talk."
Fries said Plumadore was "factual" in talking with investigators, but he wouldn't describe Plumadore's demeanor.
A judge ordered Plumadore held without bail or bond at an initial hearing Tuesday, sheriff's department spokesman Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel said. He has yet to be formally charged in Aliahna's death.
Mike McAlexander, the Allen County chief deputy prosecutor, wouldn't say whether anyone else was suspected of being involved and said "nothing has been ruled out."
Paulette Hair, 45, a former manager at the trailer park who lives at a nearby trailer park, said she never would have guessed Plumadore would kill a child.
"But you don't know a person, truly," she said.
"How could you live?" asked Hair. "How could you sit in that trailer, knowing what you did, knowing what's in your household when everybody is out there in the cold and the rain praying to God that she comes home safely and you're sitting there?"
Aliahna was a student at Holland Elementary School, said Fort Wayne school district spokeswoman Krista Stockman. She did not know what grade the girl was in.
"Obviously, this is a horrendous tragedy. For the school, this is devastating. Our teachers knew her, our principal knew her, she had friends at the school. This is going to be a loss for everyone at the school," Stockman said.
Schools are currently closed for holiday break. Stockman expected extra counselors will be made available when students return Jan. 5, and the school likely will plan some sort of memorial, she said.
Aliahna and her two younger sisters were staying with Plumadore for about one week because their mother, Tarah Souders, had been sick with the flu.
Plumadore told The Journal Gazette on Sunday that Aliahna disappeared from the home Friday morning while he was sleeping after having gone to a gas station about a mile away to buy a cigar. Authorities have said the store's surveillance video shows him there about that time.
Aliahna wasn't reported missing until Friday night. Plumadore said the younger girls told him their mother had picked her up and he didn't realize until hours later that this wasn't true.
On Saturday, more than 100 emergency workers searched for Aliahna around the trailer park on the city's north side where Aliahna and Plumadore lived. FBI agents were there Monday.
A state website shows that 15 registered sex offenders live in the park that numbers about two dozen homes. Plumadore is not on Indiana's registered sex offenders list. He has a criminal record in Florida and North Carolina that includes convictions for trespassing and assault.
Aliahna's step-grandfather, David Story, told The Associated Press that Plumadore had cared for Souders' ailing father until his death from emphysema early this month and was living in that man's mobile home.
"He was a trusted family friend," Story said late Monday, saying he was surprised by the arrest.
Richard Patee, 58, whose trailer is next to where Plumadore was living, said he didn't think it was odd that Aliahna's mother had him watching the girls for an extended period.
"They had known each other for somewhere of three to four years, I know that, and he took care of their grandfather," Patee said. "I didn't see any reason to question it at all. I talked with Mike on and off for the past two-and-a-half years and he never had a cross word."