Less than 24 hours after searchers found the body of Courtney Jo Flemal, her mother all but admitted to killing the toddler, according to court records.
But more than six months would pass before police finally charged Shelly Flemal with the murder of the 3-year-old. An affidavit filed in court this week doesn't explain the delay, and detectives aren't offering any reasons.The girl's mother, however, could face life in prison if convicted. On Monday she was arraigned on a charge of murder, a first-degree felony, and is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 4.
The affidavit states Flemal told detectives during an interview the day after the girl's body was found: "I'll make you happy, I killed her." Continued probing didn't reveal any other details, according to the document.
But detectives also list other conversations and statements by Flemal and at least two other witnesses to support the charges:
- Shelly Flemal told investigating officers responding to her missing child report that, while searching for her daughter, she never asked bystanders if they had seen Courtney Jo.
- Courtney Jo's body was found with clean, white socks, contradicting Flemal's story that the girl was playing in a park without shoes and walked away.
- An autopsy ruled out natural events as the cause of death and pointed strongly to choking as the cause.
"(The medical examiner) found evidence of blunt force trauma, including hemorrhages of the neck and multiple contusions" on the girl's arms, legs, torso and back. The autopsy also revealed swelling of the brain, which is indicative of death by asphyxiation.
- A man in Flemal's apartment the morning of the girl's death said Courtney Jo left her bedroom about 5 a.m. after hearing Shelly and the man play Nintendo. "C.J. came out of her bedroom crying. Flemal took her back into the bedroom and the crying stopped. (The man) said he did not hear C.J. again before he left for work at 3 p.m.," the affidavit states.
Shelly Flemal told police she looked away only for a minute on the morning of June 4 and when she looked back, her daughter was gone from the playground of a central Ogden park.
After Courtney Jo's disappearance, nearly 100 people canvassed the neighborhood for days. Her case attracted statewide attention, and an anonymous donor even offered a $1,000 reward for the toddler's safe return.
Flemal is being held in the Weber County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.