7-year-old's killer commits suicide

An apartment groundskeeper convicted of molesting and murdering a 7-year-old Canton girl committed suicide Thursday in a state prison, two days after he was sentenced in Cherokee County to spend life in prison without parole.

Kristen Stancil, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, confirmed late Thursday that 20-year-old Ryan Brunn was found unresponsive in his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson at 4:15 p.m. He was taken to a local hospital and was pronounced dead at 5:37 p.m. The case has been referred to the GBI for further investigation.

Stancil would not say who found Brunn or how he died or whether he was under suicide watch at the time.

Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison told Channel 2 Action News on Thursday night that he had asked the DOC for special treatment of Brunn, who was considered a “high risk inmate.”

But Garrison also told the station, a reporting partner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that Brunn had never attempted suicide while being held in the Cherokee Jail.

GBI investigators were on their way to the prison to investigate, Stancil said.

Some of those answers may come as early as Friday, when an autopsy is scheduled to be performed at the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Decatur, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said.

“This is the kind of justice that I was expecting for him for all the damage that he made to my little daughter,” said the victim’s mother, Jocelyn Rivera. “Now, I can say that I feel satisfied.”

Bankhead said the GBI conducts numerous investigations into in-custody deaths across the state each year and there is no timetable on when the probe would wrap up “due to factors beyond our control.”

Brunn pleaded guilty Tuesday to enticing Jorelys Rivera into a vacant unit at the River Ridge Apartments in Canton on Dec. 2 to molest her. He then cut her throat, beat her over the head with a roller skate and discarded her body in a trash compactor at the complex before calmly rejoining his roommate and a female friend for a night of shopping and pot smoking.

Brunn moved from Dahlonega to the River Ridge complex in November to take a job as groundskeeper. He had no criminal history as an adult, but GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Tuesday that investigators had feared he molested two other girls in Virginia and in Lumpkin County.

James McCollum, who lives upstairs from the apartment where Brunn killed Jorelys Rivera, said he had been following the case and the sentencing this week.

“As far as I’m concerned, he got off easy,” McCollum said. “He didn’t suffer enough. When you hear how he beat her to death with her own skate, he didn’t suffer enough.”

But Nancy Hudgins, another resident of the complex, said she feels as sorry for Brunn’s family as he does for the Riveras.

“His mind wasn’t right, but I feel kind of sad for the person because he was a human being,” she said. “I don’t see how he could have done that.”

Staff writer Jeffry Scott and Mundo Hispanico reporter Mario Guevara contributed to this article.