A 14-year-old boy from Indiana was arrested over the weekend in connection to the death of a 6-year-old girl whose body was found in a wooded area less than two hours after her family first reported her missing.
Grace Ross was reported missing in the area of Chapman St. in New Carlisle around 6:30 p.m. Friday, the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit said in a press release. By 8:25 p.m., she was found deceased in a wooded area near Chapman.
St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit was called to the scene to investigate, and a 14-year-old boy has since been arrested. The suspect, whose name was not immediately released by authorities, “is progressing through the juvenile system,” the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office said in another press release provided to Fox News.
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An autopsy was conducted Sunday, and prosecutors expect to provide an update in the case later Monday, Jessica McBrier, a spokeswoman for the St. Joseph’s County Prosecutors Office, told Fox News over the phone. So far, prosecutors have not announced specific charges filed against the 14-year-old and have released few details regarding the nature of Ross’ death.
The investigation remains open and active. Anyone with information is asked to call the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit at 574-235-5009 or Crime Stoppers at 574-288-STOP.
The girl’s aunt, Nicole Ross, set up a Facebook fundraiser titled “Princess Grace’s Memorial,” which raised more than $22,000 out of a $25,000 goal by Monday morning.
“My darling 6 year old niece Grace Ross passed away yesterday. She is now an angel in heaven. I’m raising money to help her parents with her funeral expenses,” Nicole Ross wrote.
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More than 200 people, including many parents to young children who played with Grace, gathered at Memorial Park Sunday evening for a candlelit vigil, as New Carlisle, a town of just about 1,800 people located about 15 miles west of South Bend, grieves the tragic loss.
“Grace was loved by everybody and she was friends with everybody,” Michelle Ross, the girl’s mother, told the crowd at the vigil, according to the South Bend Tribune. “She would go up to a stranger on the street and be like, ‘Hi, I’m Grace and I’m 6.'”
“There are not very many times on the first day of school I already know a student because there are so many new faces coming in,” Olive Elementary School Principal Tara Bush told the newspaper. “But Grace I knew from day one… Her smile even showed on her mask. You could tell she was smiling all the time.”
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Kim Huston, who has lived in the area for over 40 years, said New Carlisle was shocked by the crime, describing the Midwestern town as a normally quiet, family-friendly place where children often play outside.
“Right at your back door, you just don’t anticipate anything like that ever happening in your area,” Huston told local station WSBT. “It’s a small town and we usually don’t have much crime in the area at all. I mean everybody kind of keeps to themselves and kids on their bicycles, playing at the park, going to the library.”