A 6-year-old girl found dead in a canal near her home in a Salt Lake City, Utah suburb was sexually assaulted, police said Wednesday as detectives hunted a suspect.
Authorities in West Jordan said the girl was reported missing by her mother early Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, police ruled Sierra Newbold's death a homicide and said an autopsy determined she had been sexually assaulted.
"At this time no suspects have been identified and we do not have any persons of interest," Police Chief Doug Diamond said.
"There is obviously a predator out there that is a monster, that has murdered a child," Diamond told NBC station KSL. "Is this predator targeting other children? I have no idea at this point. Our highest priority now is to identify, arrest, and successfully prosecute the person or persons responsible for this crime."
The chief said he has increased police patrols in the area and is asking parents to take precautions to protect their children.
"If during the course of this investigation an imminent threat becomes known, we will share that information with our residents immediately," he said. "I believe there's no need to panic at this time."
Speaking to KSL, Diamond declined to provide details about the victim's condition, but added: "There was not a significant amount of trauma on the body."
Reed Newbold, the girl's grandfather, said her mother found her missing from her bedroom early Tuesday. "We don't have any idea" how the girl disappeared or whether she was taken from the bedroom, said Reed Newbold. "It's a complete mystery."
The parents "are devastated by this," he said. No working telephone number could be found for the parents, and authorities had cordoned off the neighborhood with police tape and patrol cars, where pink and purple ribbons hung on trees and mailboxes.
Officers found Sierra's body in the canal about a block from her home, just 30 minutes after her mother "discovered she was not there and called us," police Sgt. Drew Sanders said.
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