Mother of slain girl Somer Thompson, 7, sends message to unknown killer: 'We'll get you'

Updated Friday, October 23rd 2009, 10:40 AM

Diena Thompson, center, mother of Somer Thompson, shows her emotion at a candle-light vigil for her daughter, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009, in Orange Park, Fla.
Coale/AP
Diena Thompson, center, mother of Somer Thompson, shows her emotion at a candle-light vigil for her daughter, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009, in Orange Park, Fla.

Chubby-cheeked Somer Thompson was last seen alive walking along the sidewalk in front of a vacant house, and authorities said Friday that they're searching for someone who saw what happened to the 7-year-old after that.

Diena Thompson appeared red-eyed on all three network television morning shows the day after investigators identified the body they found after sorting through tons of debris at a Georgia landfill.

"We're coming for you. We'll get you, and hopefully justice will be served," she said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The day after the child's body was identified, authorities said they had ruled out all 161 registered sex offenders who lived within a 5-mile radius of Somer's home. Despite doggedly pursuing hundreds of leads, police have not made an arrest.

Clay County Sheriff's spokeswoman Mary Justino also said Friday that no witnesses have come forward to say they saw the 7-year-old attacked or abducted. Somer's body was found Wednesday by investigators sorting through tons of garbage in a Georgia landfill. An autopsy has been completed, but authorities won't disclose their findings.

Searchers combed the area before investigators, following garbage trucks that collected trash Tuesday, spotted her lifeless legs in a landfill about 50 miles away.

At a news conference, Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler would not say if Somer had been sexually assaulted or answer other questions about the condition of the body.

Diena Thompson said she does not know any details of the investigation. She said she hopes the killer gets the death penalty.

"I hate him. I hate him," she said on the CBS "Early Show."

"Every morning when I get up, I just get up thinking it's just all a bad dream, and you come out and you see everything that everybody's brought and you know it's real," she said.

Missing child posters featuring Somer's face, with chubby cheeks and thick brown bangs, still plaster nearly every utility pole along the mile-long route from her elementary school to her home.

Investigators on Thursday searched a vacant home a couple of blocks into Somer's daily route, just past a wooded area and across the street from a playground and baseball diamonds.

"It's crazy to think something like this could happen here," said neighbor Andrew Carlson, 17, as he watched officers in protective white suits go in and out of the empty house and comb through a construction trash bin outside.

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Construction crews had been working on the house, which was damaged in a fire several months ago, he said.

Authorities say Somer squabbled with another child Monday and then walked ahead of the group of kids and was never seen again.

So far, the police have not made an arrest but have questioned more than 155 registered sex offenders in the area.

State online records show 88 sex offenders live in Orange Park, a suburb of about 9,000 people just south of Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

At an intersection about halfway into her walk, where Somer would have crossed the street and turned right on the road that led straight home, a purple ribbon - which supporters and family members have been wearing - was tied to the pole of a stop sign.

On Thursday evening, a steady flow of people - many of them parents, clutching the hands of young children - walked down that same road toward Somer's house to support her grieving family with a candlelight vigil.

Around a tree across the street from the girl's house, supporters had created a memorial, leaving hundreds of stuffed animals, flickering candles, signs and balloons. Diena Thompson came out with purple ribbons tied in her hair to thank the group who sang "Amazing Grace" and "You Are My Sunshine," then recited the Lord's Prayer.

"I wish I could hug every one of you," Thompson said. "I love every one of you." Cries of support came from the crowd of about 200: "The community is behind you!" and "We're here for you. You're in our prayers."

The sheriff said the quick discovery of Somer's body, two days after she disappeared, may have saved precious evidence that could lead to her killer.

The girl disappeared in a heavily populated residential area about a mile from a stretch of fast-food restaurants and other businesses. Investigators will presumably try to pinpoint the trash bin or garbage can where she was dumped, based on the trash around her and the truck's pickup route.

"I fear for our community until we bring this person in. This is a heinous crime that's been committed," Beseler said.

"And we're going to work as hard as we can to make this community safe."