CANTON — Local, state and federal authorities continue to hunt for one or more suspects in the death of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, whose body was found in a Dumpster at her Canton apartment complex Monday morning, officials said.
Jorelys’ body, who lived at the River Ridge Apartments off Reinhardt College Parkway, was severely beaten and it appeared she had been sexually assaulted, GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Monday.
GBI Spokesman John Bankhead said investigators continue to follow up with tips.
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed Monday night and officials are slated to hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to announce the results.
Cherokee Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Lt. Jay Baker said his office, the Canton Police Department, the GBI and FBI have set up a command center at the Cherokee County Administrative Building and “will be working around the clock trying to determine who killed the child.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the command center at (770) 721-7852.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the employer of Jorelys’ mother, has created a Jorelys Rivera Memorial Fund “to help the family address its needs and cope with this sad even,” said Pilgrim’s Pride spokeswoman Margaret McDonald.
Anyone wishing to donate can contact United Community Bank in Canton at (770) 479-6700.
An award has been set up by the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office for information leading up to the capture and conviction of the suspect.
Jorelys was last seen around 5 p.m. Friday at the apartment complex playground.
She went to her apartment to get drinks when she disappeared, Canton Police Detective Candy Worthy said.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials spent the entire weekend searching within a one-mile radius of the apartment complex for Jorelys.
During the search, authorities placed Jorelys’ two younger siblings in the care of Cherokee County Department of Family and Children Services, which Worthy said was a normal protocol.
The siblings remain in the custody of the state, Baker said.
Jorelys’ body was found around lunch time in a Dumpster originally located in the front part of the complex.
Bankhead said investigators previously moved the Dumpster to a vacant field near the complex to give authorities more room to remove the large amount of trash.
Bankhead said the GBI wouldn’t go into details about the condition of the body.
“We are dealing with guilty knowledge,” Bankhead said, noting only law enforcement and the suspect know specific details about the case.
Residents of the apartment complex are puzzled about the murder but spoke positively about Jorelys and her mother.
Nancy Hudgins, a resident of the apartment complex, said officials spent all weekend searching the apartment homes inside River Ridge looking for Jorelys.
She said she had previously seen Jorelys and her mother at the pool and her mother “seemed really nice.”
“The girl would always come to her mother when she called her,” she said. “(She) seemed obedient ... just thought this kind of thing can’t happen here, but I guess it can happen anywhere.”
Ashely Rosalez and her daughter, Shana, live in an apartment complex behind River Ridge and said they often saw Jorelys playing at their playground.
Shana said Jorelys seemed like a normal kid who liked to play.
Seven-year-old Aliah Wilson, who lives with her mother, Stacy Wilson, at River Ridge, said she’s played with Jorelys on the playground there and also said she “liked to play” and smiled and laughed, just like other children.
Pamela Asansa, who moved to the complex a year ago, said she babysits children who were friends with Jorelys and would often bring the children to play with the girl and her siblings at the apartment complex playground.
However, Asansa noted the Rivera children were often unattended.
Asansa added that she went outside to help Friday night and asked Jorelys’ mother if she could be of assistance.
“She didn’t say anything,” Asansa said. “She looked like she was in shock.”