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October 25, 2009
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Fla. police vet more than 1,000 tips in girl's death

Associated Press

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Children played in a bounce house Sunday at a fundraiser for the family of a slain 7-year-old girl, while the adults watching carefully nearby vowed to find the girl's killer and raise money so her mother doesn't have to go back to work immediately.

Somer Thompson's name and photo were everywhere at the carnival-like fundraiser, which was held in a tree-lined park in the town's center. A silent raffle, a bake sale and even glittery makeovers for little girls were offered to help the family of Somer, who went missing after school Monday. Her body was found in a Georgia landfill Wednesday.

"I've been crying since day one," said Amanda Wendorff, a co-organizer of the fundraiser. "When it's a child, it just touches a community."

Wendorff, the wife of a Clay County Sheriff's deputy, has four children of her own. She urged people at the carnival to be on the lookout for anything unusual - underscoring the fear that is running deep in the community.

"If anybody notices a suspicious person, contact security," she announced.

Meanwhile, detectives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are combing through tips: more than 1,150 calls from people around the U.S. have poured in regarding the little girl.

Thompson's mother, Diena Thompson, has praised the hard work of investigators.

"These detectives - excuse my language - are busting their (expletive) to find it. Because it's an it," Diena Thompson said Saturday, referring to the killer of her daughter.

So far, no one has come forward to say they saw the girl abducted or attacked.

Thompson made the remarks to dozens of mourners and supporters holding a vigil outside her home Saturday night. They gathered around a huge makeshift memorial of Hannah Montana balloons, stuffed animals and candles that have burned so long that the wax has melted into the grass.

"I just want you guys to know I really do love you," Thompson said. "I can't believe the support I've been given."

The day after Somer's body was identified, authorities said they had ruled out all 161 registered sex offenders who lived within a 5-mile radius of Somer's home.

"I'm shocked that this could happen in this type of community," Somer's maternal great-grandmother, Marie Spires of New Richmond, Ohio, said Saturday. "And that no one would see or hear anything."

An autopsy has been completed and investigators know how Somer died, but authorities won't disclose their findings or any details about the body.

Spires said she doesn't know how the little girl died.

Associated PressCopyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

A public viewing and funeral are planned for Monday and Tuesday, but graveside services and the burial will be private.






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