Spalding County authorities arrested a 40-year-old Griffin man in the slaying of a 9-year-old girl who was found dead early Saturday after being reported missing.
Sheriff Wendell Beam said Shane Clifton Collett of 678 Yarbrough Mill Road, was arrested in the death of Skylar Dials, who had been missing since Friday afternoon. Skylar’s body was found around 2 a.m. Saturday.
“Mr. Collett has been charged with murder, kidnapping and concealing a death and is currently being held in the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center without bond,” Beam said. The sheriff did not say what led them to Collett, who lived a short distance from where Skylar lived with an aunt.
The sheriff said investigators were still awaiting results of an autopsy, which will determine the cause of death.
The search for Skylar, who attended Orrs Elementary School in Griffin, started around 4 p.m. Friday and ended around 2 a.m. Saturday. Her body was discovered in a wooded area off a gravel stretch of Yarbrough Mill Road.
Beam did not say how long the girl’s body had been at the location, how she may have died or who found the body.
The child was headed to her friends’ house nearby around 11 a.m. Friday, walking through woods near where she was found, according to Channel 2 Action News. It was common for her to go through the wooded area to visit friends, Beam said.
An intense ground and air search was launched with multiple agencies, and police search dogs were brought in. Neighbors also helped in the search. Her body was found in the opposite direction of her friends’ home, authorities said.
“She was more or less behind a large debris pile from a logging operation that went on out here at some point but [the body was] not covered. There was not debris on top of her,” said GBI Special Agent Wayne Smith told Channel 2.
Skylar was living with her aunt and had moved to the area around six months ago, according to Beam. Her mother, who lives in Atlanta, was taken away from the scene in an ambulance after her daughter’s body was found, according to Channel 2.
Despite an earlier report that the child was in foster care, spokeswoman Lisa Marie Shekell of the state Department of Human Services said Skylar was not in foster care at the time of her death.
“The department did have history with the family and will conduct a full review to determine the extent of our interactions,” Shekell said in an email to the AJC.
Sonia Moore, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1998, said Skylar’s relatives moved to the area from Hampton earlier this year after being displaced by a tornado.
“They are very nice folks,” Moore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday as vehicles passed through the rural neighbhood. “They were just so happy to be out here, and we were happy to have them.”
Moore said Skylar’s family threw a barbecue in the summer and invited surrounding families to drop in for a meet-and-greet. She said she occasionally saw Skylar playing.
“It’s just such a shock,” Moore said. “We have a lot of good neighbors. I think everyone around is just kind of in shock.”
Sheriff Beam said Skylar’s family wanted to extend “their sincere appreciation and gratitude to the community for all of their assistance during this tragic time. The family is requesting the communities understanding at this time to honor their privacy during the coming days.”
Anyone with information should contact the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office at 770-467-4282.