When someone broke into her great-grandmother's south Georgia home and stole just about everything, a 12-year-old Atlanta girl did what police couldn't.
She solved the case.
Jessica Maple's detective work came while participating in the Junior DA program at the Fulton County District Attorney's office during the summer. After learning in July that the family's 70-year-old home in Fitzgerald had been ransacked, the seventh grader at Sandtown Middle School traveled with her mom and younger brother to see the damage.
"They swept through the whole house," Jessica told the AJC. "They literally took everything."
Gone were appliances, dining room furniture and beds. Even the washer and dryer.
A police officer told Jessica's family someone must have had a key to the home to have been able to remove such large items. But no one but her mom, Stephanie, had a key, Jessica said. Then she noticed shattered glass from the broken garage door and dark fingerprints someone left behind.
"I don't see how the police officer didn't see that," Jessica said.
Next, family members visited a local pawn shop, where they were shocked to find the furnishings from the home. The owner of the shop told Jessica's mother about the two men who brought the items in and had their photo IDs, too.
Jessica said her mother told a police officer what they'd found. Then, they went to one of the suspects' houses and confronted him, Jessica said.
"We asked him why did he do all this," Jessica said. "He said he didn't know. He confessed."
Now Jessica only wishes she could get the police to place the two men under arrest.
"It's been a month and five days, and they haven't been arrested," Jessica said. "It's really frustrating. If you have all of the evidence right there, why can't you go arrest them?"
Jessica said participating in the summer program taught her ways the professionals solve real-world crimes on a daily basis. The program, which just completed its 13th summer, gives middle school students the chance to explore careers in law enforcement and includes field trips to police departments.
She admitted she wasn't thrilled when her mother suggested she participate in the program. But now, she's glad she did. Jessica wrote an essay about her role in helping solve the burglary in Fitzgerald and spoke at the Junior DA graduation at the end of July.
“These young people are a testament to what is good about our youth," District Attorney Paul Howard said. "Jessica showed initiative and zeal and in the process, helped to create a better society by assisting police in their quest to get two criminals off the street. Her future is bright.”
Jessica said she isn't sure yet what she wants to be when she grows up, but the sky may not be the limit for the straight-A student. She also participates in the Atlanta Urban Debate League. This year's topic? Outer space.