VACHERIE, La. - St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said authorities have found the body of a 12-year-old missing girl, and her mother's fiance is now considered a suspect.
Talaija Dorsey probably died about the time she was reported missing Tuesday morning, Martin said. He said he found her body Sunday in thick grass near a cane field in St. James Parish, not far from Louisiana Highway 3127.
John Celestine, 43, is now considered a suspect rather than a person of interest, Martin said in a news conference. Celestine remained in the St. James Parish Jail in Convent.
He was booked with obstruction of justice last week, after deputies found a pair of the girl's slippers in a minivan that was on blocks in the family's front yard.
He and Emma Dorsey have been engaged for two years but had known each other much longer, authorities have said.
Martin said "we have to rule out" two other people as possibly involved, and he does not consider either a suspect.
Investigators are trying to learn where they were when Dorsey disappeared, Martin said. The sheriff declined to talk about whether Dorsey had been wounded or the condition of her body, saying that's part of a continuing investigation.
The child was reported missing after a friend stopped by her home in the St. James community so the two could go to summer camp together.
Martin said more than 100 volunteers had been searching during the past week, and many tips came in from the community. The sheriff was searching alone when he found Dorsey's body, Louisiana State Police Lt. Todd Toloudis said. "I took it personal," Martin said.
State Police were still taking evidence from the scene, and said it would take about a day and a half to process it. An autopsy will likely take 24 hours, Martin said.
He said he brought Dorsey's photograph home with him as motivation to continue searching. "We looked at that smile every single day," Martin said.
The girl's mother, sisters and grandmother had been told and were with church members, Martin said.