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MOTHER OF SLAIN 3-YEAR-OLD IS CHARGED WITH MURDER

SHARE MOTHER OF SLAIN 3-YEAR-OLD IS CHARGED WITH MURDER

More than six months after pleading for her 3-year-old daughter's safe return, Shelly Flemal has been arrested and charged with murdering the girl.

Flemal was arraigned about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in 2nd Circuit Court on a charge of murder, a first-degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to life in prison.Three days after Shelly Flemal reported her daughter missing, Courtney Jo Flemal's body was found under a bush in the Ogden City Cemetery. That was June 7. After an autopsy and a number of tests, authorities said they suspected the little girl had been murdered but wouldn't say how.

Police originally thought Courtney Jo had wandered away from Liberty Park in Ogden where she was playing with other children. Her mother was just a few feet away. Shelly Flemal told police she looked away only for a minute and when she looked back, her daughter was gone.

Nine detectives were initially assigned to the case, and police pursued a number of leads that didn't materialize. After Courtney Jo's disappearance, nearly 100 people canvassed the neighborhood for days.

Courtney Jo's case attracted statewide attention, and an anonymous donor even offered a $1,000 reward for the toddler's safe return.

When her body was found, police suspected murder even though there were no obvious signs of trauma on the child's body.

Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria was reluctant to give any details about why authorities suspected Shelly Flemal.

"At the culmination of the investigation, which occurred over several months, the decision of both this office and the law enforcement agencies involved was that she should be arrested and charged with this crime," he said.

Flemal is being held in the Weber County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. The public defender's office will represent her at a preliminary hearing set for Jan. 4.