WEST JORDAN — Police say a 6-year-old West Jordan girl found in a canal near her home Tuesday was murdered.
An autopsy indicated that someone killed Sierra Newbold and that she had been sexually assaulted, said West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond.
"There is obviously a predator out there that is a monster, that has murdered a child," Diamond said. "Is this predator targeting other children? I have no idea at this point."
Increased police patrols have been ordered in the neighborhood and the chief asked parents to take precautions with their children. He said investigators don't know whether the girl's death was an isolated incident, but encouraged residents not to be fearful.
"I believe there's no need to panic at this time," he said.
Police would not say how the child was killed or what information led them to classify the death as a homicide. "We are not saying why we know that, just that we do know that," said West Jordan Police Sgt. Drew Sanders.
Just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, family members called police to report that Sierra was missing from her home at 2383 W. 7095 South. Officers started searching the area and soon found her in a nearby canal. She was dead at the scene.
Diamond declined to provide details about her condition, but said, "There was not a significant amount of trauma on the body."
Detectives have been gathering evidence and conducting interviews, but no arrests have been made in the case.
"No one has been ruled out at this point" as suspects, Sanders said. "What's most important now is that we catch whoever did this."
Diamond said he did not know whether she was taken from her home, but said police share in the "sadness and outrage" over the girl's death and remain focused on finding who is responsible. He asked that the community extend police their support and patience.
On Tuesday, pink and purple ribbons were tied around trees, mailboxes and light posts near the home where Sierra lived. Samantha Robinson, a neighbor, said neighbors and members of the local LDS Church ward tied the ribbons Monday night in honor of Sierra, using her favorite colors.
"They really came from everyone because Sierra was known by everyone in the ward," Robinson said.
She described Sierra as "sweet" and said when she smiled, she looked like an angel. News of a homicide was alarming, but she said she still feels confident that the close-knit neighborhood is safe.
"I'm fairly new and I believe I moved into a good neighborhood and it's still a good neighborhood," she said. "We watch out for each other. We're struggling, but we'll make it through."
Another neighbor, Todd Archuleta, said it's shocking to realize something so terrible happened near his home, where he and many of his neighbors have lived for decades. Just a few nights ago, he said his nephews were sleeping outside on a trampoline — something they won't be doing anymore.
"I've lived here for 30 to 35 years and I've never seen anything like this before," he said.
Robinson had difficulty speaking about what happened to Sierra.
"I can't fathom how someone can get in such a state that they feel they can harm anybody, especially a child," she said.
The case appears to have similarities to an unsolved Salt Lake homicide that occurred in August 1995. Two days after going missing, the body of 6-year-old Rosie Tapia was found in a canal near her family’s Glendale-area apartment. Police ruled her death to be a murder, but leads eventually ran cold. Rosie would have turned 23 this August.
Rosie’s mother, Lewine Tapia, said Monday she still feels the pain of losing her daughter. She said every new story of a crime against children brings back memories of Rosie.
"I've been waiting for 17 years and still nothing," Tapia said. "Hopefully, this time, they will find closure right away."
A fund has been set up in Sierra's name to assist the family with funeral costs. Individuals wishing to donate can do so through America First Credit Union.
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