Eight days of searching for a 10-year-old ended when teenagers came across her broken body in a trash-strewn alley. Now police - already investigating the slaying of a 9-year-old - suspect there's a serial killer at work.
Police said Cassidy "Cassie" Senter, who was abducted Dec. 1, probably was dead for several days. But no one spotted her body amid the bricks, broken glass and other rubble in the alley until Thursday."It was beat-up," said Demetrius Phillips, one of the teenagers who discovered the body still clothed in jeans and a polka-dot sweater in pink, her favorite color. "Beat-up bad."
Cassie, who was to have been narrator in her school's Christmas program next week, vanished in suburban Bridgeton while walking to a friend's house about a block away to put up Christmas lights. A neighbor heard Cassie's personal alarm wailing on the
ground and looked outside. By then, she was gone.
"We've got to catch whoever did this to this little girl," Police Chief Clarence Harmon said.
Police said there were definite similarities in the slayings of Cassie and 9-year-old Angie Marie Housman of the neighboring suburb of St. Ann. Her body was found Nov. 27 in a wildlife preserve nine days after she disappeared while walking the four blocks home from her bus stop.
Police and FBI investigators formed a task force and called in an expert on serial killers from the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., to help develop a profile of the killer or killers.
"I think there's a definite connection," St. Louis Chief of Detectives James J. Hackett said. "I think we have a child killer here."
Adding to fears was the abduction and slaying of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in Petaluma, Calif., and three attempted abductions reported in recent weeks in the St. Louis area of girls ages 10, 11 and 12.
In the latest incident, a 12-year-old in East Alton, Ill., told authorities a man tried to lure her into his pickup truck as she waited for a school bus Thursday morning. When she refused, the man got out and chased her, she said, but she escaped by running home.
The killings have gripped the modest suburbs where both girls lived. More than 100 officers had helped search for Cassie and track down more than 300 tips that came in on a hotline.
Mallinckrodt Medical Inc. of St. Louis, a medical products company, offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the slayings.
Hopes were crushed with the news - carried live on television and announced in school classrooms - that Cassie had been found dead.