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Person of Interest Arrested in Somer Thompson Murder

11:13 AM, Feb 12, 2010   |    comments
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ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A man who used to live in a home near where Somer Thompson disappeared is in jail in Mississippi as a person of interest in her kidnapping and murder.

Federal agents arrested 24-year-old Jarred Harrell in Meridian, Mississippi, Thursday on 29 counts of child pornography.

Harrell is being held on a $1 million bond in the Lauderdale County Detention Center.

It appears unlikely that Harrell will appear in court Friday morning because of bad weather in Mississippi.  His earliest court appearance could be Tuesday since Monday is a holiday.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office said the pornography crimes occurred in Clay County.


Investigators say Harrell once lived at 1152 Gano Avenue.

The home is one block west of Somer's home and along the route she walked to and from Grove Park Elementary school.

Somer disappeared October 19 while walking home from school with her brothers.

Authorities found her body in a landfill in Georgia several days later.

Investigators roped off the home on Gano Avenue where they've been scouring the yard with rakes and shovels.

Authorities placed paper bags of evidence on a table outside.

The home is one of several searched by authorities. The others are in Callahan and where Harrell lived in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Harrell currently works at the Queens City Recycling plant.

His MySpace page identified him as a former city of Jacksonville employee in the IT Department, but a city spokeswoman told First Coast News he never worked for the city of Jacksonville.

The investigation into Harrell began last August when his roommates asked him to move out of an apartment on Wells Road.  They accused him of stealing an iPod.  He moved out on August 4, 2009.

The affidavit for arrest warrant indicates Harrell left his computer and disks behind.

Investigators said his roommates, after being told he had been caught viewing child pornography before, searched his computer and found images and movies of child pornography.

The roommates turned over the computer to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on August 10, 2009.

The Office of the Attorney General Cyber Crimes Unit processed the computer and retrieved 24 images and five movies containing child pornography.

Diena Thompson, Somer's mother, told the Florida Times-Union Thursday afternoon she supports whatever work authorities can do to bring Somer's killer to justice.

"I'm not speculating on anything. I don't want to get my hopes up and I don't want to get my hopes down,"said Thompson, 35, of the search. "I'm going to put my faith in God and hope the Clay County Sheriff's Office does what they're good at."

The Times-Union spoke to neighbors early Thursday afternoon who wondered if the search had to do with Somer Thompson.

"Does this have anything to do with the little girl?" asked Joey Smith, 24, who lives about a block away.

Lisa Gainers, who lives near the home being searched on Gano Avenue, said she hopes police will be able to learn more about Somer's disappearance and death from this search.

"If they find something pertaining to Somer, that's good," said Gainers, 49.

Somer's father, Sam, spoke to First Coast News this evening: 

"You can never be prepared for this. We are praying for everyone involved in the investigation. God will lead them to the truth in this matter. There will be justice for Somer. The needless taking of her life has impacted us so much. We've been waiting so long and it is terrible, really. You can't really move on, but I also don't ever want to move on. It's not finished. There is nothing that can bring total closure to this."


Somer was abducted and murdered in October 2009. Her body was found two days later in a Georgia landfill. Police have sifted through thousands of leads looking for her killer. Somer's mom, Diena, spoke to First Coast News recently and believes the killer is local and spoke to Somer at least once to gain her trust.

The reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the Somer Thompson case has grown to $64,000.

Call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS if you have any information. You will remain anonymous. You can also send tips to the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 1-877-227-6911 or via email at

You can donate to the Somer Thompson reward fund at Ameris Bank. It has two locations. One is at 888 Lane Avenue and the other is at 4835 Town Center Parkway. The account number is 3123504437.

First Coast News is headed to the scene and will bring you more information as soon as possible.




Florida Times-Union, First Coast News

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