20-year-old arrested in brutal child slaying

Just five months ago, the man now charged with the brutal murder of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera took to his Facebook page to rail against Casey Anthony's acquittal in her daughter's death.

"...[Expletive] should of died really but she'll get hers," Ryan Brunn posted.

Wednesday, the 20-year-old from Dahlonega was in a Cherokee County jail cell, accused of gagging, binding, raping, beating and stabbing Jorelys before tossing her body into an industrial trash compactor at the apartment complex where they both lived. Brunn had moved to the River Ridge complex in November, boasting on Facebook that he would live there free in return for doing maintenance work.

Now it is Jorelys' mother, Jocelyn Rivera, who is calling for the death penalty. Rivera has remained largely quiet during the ordeal, but after the arrest, she told Mundo Hispanico that she cannot forgive Brunn and wants him to face execution. "I demand that justice be done," she said.

Jorelys' body was found Monday. She had been missing since about 5 p.m. Friday, last seen on a playground in the complex. Investigators say Brunn killed her in a vacant apartment in the building next to her mother's building. Her mouth was duct-taped, her hands and feet bound with plastic ties, and her body had been compacted by the mechanical dumpster only operable by maintenance staff.

That same night, Brunn coolly joined in the search for the missing girl, helping to distribute fliers bearing her picture, other residents told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Brunn, who was arrested wearing a blue Hollister sweatshirt and jeans, has been charged with homicide and making false statements, according to the affidavit for his arrest warrant. Additional charges may be filed by the Cherokee County District Attorney's Office. Brunn has been assigned two public defenders and will make his first court appearance Thursday at the Cherokee County Justice Center in Canton.

"He's been here all this time," Jorelys' aunt Rosa Soto-Torres told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the arrest. "He had a plan, he had a target. He had everything planned.

"It could have been anybody. And anybody could have been next," she said. "He's not going to do it to another child."

Wednesday afternoon, at Brunn's family home on Sleepy Hollow Road in Dahlonega, a man who identified himself as one of Brunn's brothers came outside with a pit bull on a short leash and ordered the media to leave.

Later, he agreed to speak with Channel 2 Action News.

“They’re making my brother seem like he’s a monster,” Steven Brunn said. “My brother is kind-hearted. He’ll give to you if he’s got it. He’s great with kids. And there’s never been any signs of violence.

“The whole thing doesn’t seem possible. It’s not his nature. He’s not a violent person,” the 26-year-old brother said. “The only thing we can do is just hope and pray and cross our fingers that this ain’t true. If it is, there are no words to say. He’s a done deal.”

Brunn has no criminal history as an adult, investigators said. The company that manages River Ridge, McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc. of St. Louis, Mo.,  said in a statement that all employees and residents of River Ridge must pass criminal background checks, including searches of  sex offender registries.

Before moving to Canton last month, Brunn lived with his mother in Dahlonega, according to his Facebook page. On that site, he often complained of being bored and eager to leave Dahlonega, and seemed proud of his new job and apartment. The page was taken down from the site Wednesday evening.

E.J. Young, who met Brunn while playing basketball at the Dahlonega Y.M.C.A. some years ago, said he was shocked by the arrest. Young said Brunn was homeschooled by his mother and also went to what he called “a Christian school.” A 2006 team roster from War Hill Christian Academy in Dawsonville lists Brunn as a member of the school's football team.

Young said Brunn also moved to Virginia for a while to live with family and came back.

“I used to hang out at his house," said Young. “He always seemed kind of weird ... He always seemed like he had a lot in his head but didn’t want to talk about it."

Recently, Brunn told him that “he found a good job and an apartment.” He worked at a Krystal before taking the job at River Ridge last month.

Dahlonega neighbors said they had called police on Brunn and his brothers at various times, with one neighbor saying the boys were fighting and another neighbor reporting she watched one of the boys punch a dog.

Brunn’s mother, Karen Ann Whiteley, filed for bankruptcy Friday. According to the motion, filed in federal court in Gainesville, she had $50,000 to $100,000 in assets but more than $100,000 in debts.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation director Vernon Keenan said investigators began focusing on Brunn Monday afternoon based on multiple tips from residents of the complex, who reported that he acted suspiciously. On that day, investigators conducted the first of several interviews with Brunn.

Lindsey Hale, who lives in the apartment next door to the Rivera family, said that after Jorelys' body was found, she called the police tip line twice with information about Brunn.

She said that in recent weeks she had noticed him driving slowly around the playground, looking at the children. "I just got creeped out by him," Hale said.

Other neighbors described Brunn's behavior in the hours following Jorelys' disappearance.

“He was talking about how the police should be checking garages, and checking cars,” said resident David Lott. “He didn’t seem like anything was wrong. He was calm and collected.”

Resident Nancy Hudgins said she also talked to Brunn that night, when police were going door to door. Brunn told her he was worried that police would search his apartment, she said.

“He told me ‘I’m kind of scared for them to go into my apartment because I have a lot of alcohol bottles lying around, and my girlfriend is asleep,” she said.

Karla Reister, whose boyfriend, James McCollum lives upstairs from the vacant apartment where police believe Jorelys was killed, said she encountered Brunn on Saturday afternoon.

“I told him it’s sad this little girl is missing,” she said. “He said, ‘this neighborhood is bad and it’s getting worse.'"

--Staff writers Rhonda Cook, Bill Torpy, Christian Boone and Mundo Hispanico's Mario Guevara contributed to this report.