CROTHERSVILLE, Ind. – Other people might have been involved in the abduction and slaying of a 10-year-old Crothersville girl, authorities said Thursday after the arrest of a local man who reportedly confessed to the crime.
Charles James Hickman, 25, was arrested Wednesday on preliminary charges of murder, felony murder and criminal confinement in the slaying of Katlyn "Katie" Collman (search). He was being held Thursday at the Jackson County Jail awaiting an initial court hearing.
Hickman confessed to investigators that he killed Collman, a fourth-grader at Crothersville Elementary, state police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said.
"We are not satisfied with just one arrest," Goodin said at a news conference Thursday. "If that's what it leads to in this case, if that's all it boils down to, then obviously we are. But if there are other people involved, then we are going to seek those other people out."
Police had been searching for Collman's killer since a state trooper found her body in a stream Sunday, five days after authorities say she apparently accepted a ride from a young man in a white truck while walking about three blocks home from an errand to buy toilet paper.
The girl's funeral is set for Sunday at her school.
Authorities have not released information about the cause of the girl's death. They declined Thursday to discuss a possible motive or what led investigators to Hickman.
Terry Gray, a spokesman for the girl's family and chief of the Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department, said the "family is thrilled" at the arrest of a suspect.
"John said one thing that could make the funeral bearable is if they caught the person responsible," Gray said, recounting a recent conversation with Katie's father, John Neace.
Jackson County Sheriff Jerry Hounshel said Hickman did not appear to have an adult arrest record but might have had a juvenile record. Hickman was apparently born and raised around the town of some 1,600 people about 40 miles north of Louisville, Ky., Hounshel said.
Alisa Sweazy, the town's deputy clerk, said she went school with Hickman's parents and knew him as their child. She said the only trouble he had been in before were typical teenager problems.
Goodin's comments that others could be involved were troubling, Sweazy said after the news conference.
"I would be concerned, still maybe a little scared. Is it more people from the Crothersville area? Was it somebody Katie knew and they lured her in somehow?" Sweazy said.
Authorities also said at the news conference said they were following up on false reports received during the investigation and that those who made those statement could face charges.
News of the arrest spread quickly late Wednesday through the town, which had been deeply shaken by a week in which a vigil for a missing child transformed into the first local homicide in a generation.
"Grown men were hugging each other, and we don't even hug," said Eddie Hodge, the owner of Redneck Computers (search), who produced T-shirts with Katie's face on the front and the police composite sketch of the suspect on the back above a grim warning: "We will find you next."
Proceeds from T-shirts sales will help pay for the manhunt and the funeral.
Hodge said people were half asleep when they learned of the arrest.
"Maybe some of these kids can go to sleep at night now," he said.