IOWA CITY, Iowa – A registered sex offender accused in the abduction and slaying of a 10-year-old girl was charged Monday with first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Roger Paul Bentley (search), 37, of Brandon, made an initial appearance in Johnson County District Court. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
He was being held in the Linn County Jail (search) under $2 million bond.
Authorities accused Bentley of taking Jetseta Gage (search) from her home in Cedar Rapids on Thursday night and driving 45 miles south to an abandoned mobile home near Kalona, where the girl was killed.
Police said Jetseta's 7-year-old brother saw her get into a truck with Bentley, minutes after the children's grandmother told them it was about time to go to bed. A statewide Amber Alert was issued within three hours of the girl's disappearance.
The following day, police received an anonymous telephone call that led them to the mobile home and the girl's body, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said Monday afternoon.
At a news conference, Pulkrabek released a transcript of the call, which came from a woman who had heard about the alert.
"We took him down to that land a couple of days ago and there is a trailer there that he can get into," the woman said. "So I would really feel comfortable if the sheriff would check this out.
"But it just occurred to us, my boyfriend and I ... that this would be the perfect place to hide out if you needed to," the caller said.
Within minutes of receiving the call, deputies rushed to the mobile home, arrested Bentley and then sorted through the mess of debris, boxes and furniture inside before finding the girl's body, Pulkrabek said.
Bentley appeared to have blood stains on his clothing and evidence suggested the girl had been sexually abused, according to court documents.
A preliminary autopsy concluded that Jetseta died of asphyxiation, but investigators declined to elaborate on the details of the girl's slaying or the extent of her injuries.
Bentley was convicted in 1994 of lascivious acts with a child and served two years of a five-year sentence.
Gage's mother, Trena Gage, who was attending a night class at a local community college when her daughter was abducted, said she did not know Bentley was a registered sex offender.
As a friend of the family, Bentley was at Gage's house Thursday afternoon, fixing the transmission in the family's minivan.
Trena Gage said she met Bentley through his younger brother James, whom she had dated about five years ago.
James Bentley, 33, is in the Linn County jail awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree sexual abuse. Police have also confirmed that Jetseta was the abuse victim in the case against James Bentley.
At a news conference Monday, police declined to speculate on a possible link between the two criminal cases.
Robert Bentley also was charged in Linn County with child stealing, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White said a decision is pending on whether the cases would be tried separately or consolidated.