NEW ORLEANS – A suspect in the stabbing death of a 6-year-old girl whose body was found in a trash can only days after she disappeared from a suburban New Orleans apartment has confessed to the killing, a sheriff said Wednesday.
Matthew Flugence, 20, was captured Tuesday night after authorities received tips he had been sighted, said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Flugence was booked on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Ahlittia North.
"We began interviewing Matthew through the evening and he admitted to the murder of Ahlittia North," Normand said at a news conference.
The 6-year-old had been put to bed Friday night and was found missing early Saturday from an apartment where she lived with her mother and stepfather in the Jefferson Parish community of Harvey, near New Orleans.
An intense search, including canvassing of hundreds of apartments, began soon after the girl was reported missing and a pool of blood was subsequently found outside nearby apartments. When DNA testing revealed it to be that of the missing girl, the search was stepped up in that area late Monday.
Normand has said the child's body, which had multiple stab wounds, was found around midnight Monday in a trash can that had already been searched once.
On Wednesday, Normand declined to answer when asked where the body had been kept from the time the girl was killed, believed to be early Saturday, and the time it was found.
Normand said Flugence was carrying a knife when he was arrested and that he later identified it as the murder weapon.
Flugence's brother, Russell Flugence, 21, had been arrested a day earlier on an obstruction of justice charge for allegedly withholding information in the case.
Normand said numerous loose ends remain, including determining whether anyone else may have helped Matthew Flugence or harbored him.
The girl disappeared some time after her parents put her to bed late Friday. A blanket and the girl's toothbrush also were gone. There was no sign of forced entry at the apartment, Normand said.
"His story is that she was outside of the apartment in the very early morning hours of Saturday," Normand said.
As the search for Matthew Flugence was getting underway, deputies said they also had obtained a warrant against him for an unrelated sexual battery case involving an 11-year-old child earlier in the year.
The sheriff said Matthew Flugence was a neighbor and nephew of Ahlittia North's stepfather and had babysat the girl in the past. There was no indication the mother or stepfather knew of the alleged sexual battery incident, Normand said.
As the investigation continued, friends and neighbors gathered for vigils Tuesday and Wednesday at the site where the body was found. Children and adults placed teddy bears and other stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial that continued to grow.