Computer Crime Research Center


Autopsy done on slain girl as accused man goes to court

Date: April 12, 2005
Source: Associated Press
By: Carson Walker

A Sioux Falls man will be held without bond after making his first court appearance Monday on charges he abducted his girlfriend's 8-year-old granddaughter as she slept, took her to a remote abandoned farm, raped her and killed her.

Murray James Jones, 41, is charged with kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree murder.

Police said he took Jessica Rae DeLaTorre late Friday or early Saturday from the Sioux Falls trailer home he shared with the girl's 55-year-old grandmother.

Sioux Falls Police Chief Doug Barthel said Jones led investigators to the general area where he left the body and it was found Saturday under some trees near Fulton, which is about 65 miles west of the trailer park.

The medical examiner will determine the cause of death, but it didn't appear a weapon was used, Barthel said.

An autopsy was done Monday and detectives were still checking the house and Jones' 1989 Chevy Caprice for clues, he said.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Dave Nelson said it's too early to decide whether he would ask for the death penalty if Jones were convicted of murder or kidnapping. Otherwise, the maximum penalty is life in prison.

Nelson and Barthel said they could not discuss the facts of the case, including the circumstances surrounding the killing.

Barthel said a national check found no sex crimes on Jones' record, though his name came up recently as someone who may have viewed child pornography at an Internet cafe in Sioux Falls.

There wasn't enough information to file charges because Jones didn't possess anything illegal, Barthel said.

The police chief said detectives believe Murray at the cafe Friday, just hours before the killing, though it's still not clear if he surfed any child porn sites on that day.

Police said Jones also is being investigated for allegedly sending sexually inappropriate instant computer messages to a woman March 23, using someone else's user name.

Barthel said Jones and Jessica's grandmother had been in a relationship for several years.

The girl and her two brothers, ages 4 and 11, were spending the night at the woman's trailer in Pine Meadow Mobile Home Park in Sioux Falls. The grandmother was away for the night, and Jones was left to watch the children, Barthel said.

While the girl's brothers slept, Jones drove her to a spot off a gravel road, he said.

"I believe she slept the entire time," Barthel said of the trip.

Authorities found Jessica's body Saturday afternoon under some trees.

Jessica and her two brothers lived in Sioux Falls with their mother, Barthel said. The boys are now with her, he said.

In an interview with The Argus Leader, Dawn Semmler said described her daughter as a happy child.

She loved playing with her two brothers and watching the TV show "Full House," Semmler said. The second-grader also liked to read and draw.

"She was always making things that said, 'I love you, Mom,' 'I love you, Dad,' " Semmler said.

Some family members attended Monday's court hearing but did not want to talk to reporters.

"This family is understandably struggling, but they're a strong group and a courageous group," Nelson said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 26, if the case doesn't first go to a grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial.

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