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MURDER CHARGE FILED IN GIRL’S DEATH

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James Edward Wood, 45, was charged Monday with first-degree murder in the abduction and slaying of 11-year-old newspaper carrier Jeralee Underwood, and Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman said he'll likely seek the death penalty.

Hiedeman told a news conference Monday an autopsy disclosed that Underwood was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. He wouldn't go further on the autopsy, other than to say final results from Friday's medical examination could take weeks.The prosecutor also announced 11 other felony charges against Wood, who is being held in the Bannock County Jail without bond pending a Friday preliminary hearing on the kidnapping charge. The prosecutor said Wood is charged with kidnapping other young girls, two counts of rape and two of other sex crimes, robbery and aggravated assault.

"It appears like a death penalty case but there are some legal matters to be resolved," Hiedeman said Monday.

Underwood, a carrier for the Idaho State Journal, was collecting from customers June 29th when she was forced into a car by a man, who sped off. Almost exactly a week later, Wood was arrested and authorities found the girl's remains along the Snake River at Idaho Falls, 50 miles north, the next day.

Saturday's services for the victim attracted about 2,000 to a Pocatello meeting house of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many were moved to tears as they listened to details about Underwood's short life.

"She began dance lessons at age 4," Elise Browning, Underwood's aunt, told the crowd. "Last year, she got straight A's in the fifth grade and was vice president of the student council. She learned a song in sign language and hoped to be in a children's choir next year."

Among the mourners was Elder James E. Faust, a member of the LDS Church's Council of the Twelve.

"It's time to close the doors and move on," Faust said. "As we realize, through the microcosm of one little girl's death, maybe we as a group will do all in our power to protect those who we love and even those we don't know."

Pocatello Stake President Kert Howard praised Underwood's parents, Jeff and Joyce Underwood, for their dignity and courage.

"This past week, we've seen a mom and dad, who may not be very tall physically, tower over us," Howard said. "They've taught us so much about love, compassion, understanding and forgiveness."

Glancing at their daughter's flower-covered casket, the couple wept. They did not speak at the ceremony.

Hiedeman listened intensely to the tribute to the slain girl's parents. He gripped a program with Jeralee Underwood's photo as he brushed away his tears.

Late Saturday, about 100 people gathered at Raymond Park in West Pocatello for a candlelight vigil.