Prosecutors on Thursday charged a man with kidnapping and aggravated murder in the death of a 5-year-old girl, saying he confessed to smothering the girl, then sexually assaulting her — a crime that could bring the death penalty.
Destiny Norton had been missing for eight days when police found her body Monday night stuffed in a plastic storage box in a cellar at the man's house just two doors away, prosecutor Bob Stott said at a news conference to announce the charges Thursday.
The neighbor, Craig Roger Gregerson, 20, will be appointed a defense lawyer at a court appearance scheduled for Friday, he said.
Destiny's parents, Rich and Rachael Norton, were in seclusion Thursday and making funeral plans for their daughter, but a close friend speaking on their behalf said Gregerson should be executed.
"Let him fry," Peter Brooks said. "He took an innocent child out of her own backyard. Your own backyard. That's where we send our children. Lured her into his house, and did the unspeakable act that he performed on this child. ... No human being deserves to walk on this planet after doing that."
Brooks and other friends said Gregerson had volunteered to help search for the girl and lighted a candle in a vigil outside the family's home before he led police to her body.
Authorities added a few details about the girl's disappearance and why police couldn't find her body the first time they searched Gregerson's tiny row house unit. The storage box had been hidden in a "tight, confined basement with a lot of material down there," Stott said.
Gregerson told police he lured Destiny into his home the night of July 16, and that she protested. "Destiny wanted to leave and became very vocal," Stott said.
Stott said Gregerson covered the girl's mouth, then carried the limp body into his cellar. An autopsy determined Destiny was smothered to death, then sexually assaulted.
The aggravating circumstances in the murder charge come from kidnapping the girl and desecrating her body, said Stott, who added he hadn't decided whether to seek the death penalty.
"Before any sentence can be given we have to get a conviction," Stott said.