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Updated: 1:04 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 | Posted: 11:18 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

Guilty plea, life sentence in Jorelys Rivera murder


Guilty plea, life sentence in Jorelys Rivera murder photo
Phil Skinner
Ryan Brunn enters Superior Court at the Cherokee County Justice Center in Canton to plead guilty to abducting, assaulting and slaying 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.
Guilty plea, life sentence in Jorelys Rivera murder photo
Channel 2 Action News
Jorelys Rivera.
Guilty plea, life sentence in Jorelys Rivera murder photo
Phil Skinner
Joselinne Rivera cries as Ryan Brunn describes how he killed her daughter, Jorelys, before he pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 7-year-old's murder.

By Andria Simmons, Jeffry Scott

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An apartment complex groundskeeper coldly recounted how he enticed 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera to a vacant unit, molested and then killed her before entering a negotiated guilty plea on Tuesday.

Ryan Brunn, 20, was sentenced to life without parole for murdering Jorelys. He might have faced a death sentence had the case gone to trial.

Speaking in court before the plea was accepted, Brunn leaned on a lectern, chewed his bottom lip and explained how he used a roller skate to lure the little girl away from her building in the River Ridge Apartments in Canton on Dec. 2, triggering a case that riveted metro Atlanta.

Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Frank C. Mills interrupted frequently to press Brunn for details, as little by little an account of Jorelys’ last few hours alive emerged.

Brunn said he came across a roller skate while cleaning and knew it was Jorelys’ because he had seen her skating. He took a picture of the skate and waited for her to come back to her apartment building so he could show it to her and ask whose it was.

“I told her to come with me and I’ll get it for her,” said Brunn. “And she did.”

Brunn said he had identified a vacant unit where he thought he could take the girl for “sexual purposes,” Brunn told the judge. Brunn said he had been looking at child pornography, but added he “never had an idea of killing a child in my life.”

Brunn, of Dahlonega, had moved to the complex in November, where he lived for free in exchange for groundskeeping. Brunn was still on duty at around 4:30 p.m. that Friday when he lured Jorelys into the vacant unit. His workday was scheduled to end at 5 p.m.

Brunn said he made Jorelys partially undress and at one point get into a bathtub, but he insisted he did not touch her.

“She asked if after she’s done, would she go home?” Brunn said. “That’s the only thing she asked.”

Brunn said he told her “yes.” But Jorelys didn’t get to go home.

Brunn said he instead cut the girl’s throat, then repeatedly struck her with the skate until she lost consciousness. He said he wrapped her body in a sheet or blanket and used a golf cart to take it to the complex’s trash compactor.

“I guess I got scared in there and I didn’t want her to go home and tell on me,” he said.

Brunn said he spent the weekend hanging out with his roommate and another female friend, going to Wal-Mart, playing monopoly and watching football on television.

That Sunday, two days after Jorelys disappeared, as the feverish search for her was underway, Brunn said he wrote a note on a small McDonald’s receipt and taped it to the compactor.

“She’s in the trash can,” it said.

Police had searched around the compactor initially. They found the note a day later when the compactor was being moved to a location for an internal search. Jorelys body was found shortly afterward.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said that investigators began to focus on Brunn when a witness reported seeing him go to the trash compactor, and Brunn insisted he didn’t.

Handwriting analysis of the note linked Brunn to the crime, as did DNA and fingerprints from rubber gloves at the crime scene, Keenan said.

“The magnitude of the evidence was overwhelming,” Cherokee Distrct Attorney Gary Moss said. “When presented with it, he had no option.”

Brunn pleaded guilty to charges of murder, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, false imprisonment, abandonment of a dead body, making a false statement, sexual exploitation of children and two counts each of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and cruelty to children in the first degree.

Mills, the judge, repeatedly asked Brunn if he was certain he wanted to forgo his right to a trial, at one point telling him that if the plea was accepted, “you will never see the outside of a prison in your lifetime, do you understand that?”

Mills also pointed out that Brunn could have pleaded not guilty and considered an insanity defense. Brunn shook his head to indicate “no.”

“I know right from wrong,” he told Mills.

Throughout most of the hour and 15-minute long hearing, Jorely’s mother, Jocelyn Rivera, sobbed and her shoulders shuddered as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. A friend consoled her. At one point, when Brunn described how he killed Jorelys, she stared at his back as he faced the judge and shook her head as if in disbelief.

In a written statement read aloud in court by Moss, she said she wanted Brunn to suffer in jail, and she agreed with the prosecutor’s decision to allow him to serve life in prison without parole.

“I want justice for my angel Jorelys,” Rivera said.

Brunn told the judge he was sorry for committing the crime.

“I would like to apologize for everything I’ve done,” he said.

He turned to the dead girl’s family and said “Lo siento” -- “I’m sorry” in Spanish.

His defense attorney, David Cannon, declined to say whether he and fellow defense attorney Daran Burns initiated the guilty plea. The decision came after Brunn made statements to prosecutors last week, according to Keenan.

“He’s remorseful that a child’s life is lost, and he’s been sentenced,” Cannon said of his client after the hearing.

Keenan described Brunn after the hearing as a “monster” and “sociopathic killer” whose behavior was characteristic of “someone who has no remorse.” He said he did not believe Brunn’s testimony that he didn’t have sex with the girl.

Keenan said investigators believe Brunn has molested other children in Virginia and Lumpkin County, based on interviews with family and former neighbors conducted after his arrest.

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