IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Human remains discovered in rural eastern Iowa have been identified as a 10-year-old girl who was reported missing last summer, police said Wednesday.
Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski said an autopsy confirmed the remains are Breasia Terrell, a Davenport girl whose July 10 disappearance prompted an extensive search and investigation.
“This news is heartbreaking to both Breasia’s family and our Davenport community,” an emotional Sikorski said at a news conference in Davenport, on the Iowa-Illinois state line. “Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers are with all of those who are affected by this tragic loss.”
He said the investigation by local, state and federal agencies has shifted from a search for a missing child to an effort to solve a homicide.
Fishermen earlier this month discovered what appeared to be human remains in DeWitt in rural Clinton County, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Davenport, and called police. Authorities said last week that they were working to identify the remains.
Sikorski did not release the autopsy’s findings on the cause and manner of death, citing the need to “maintain the integrity” of the investigation.
Investigators say Breasia was last seen in the early hours of July 10 at a Davenport apartment complex, where she was staying the night with her half brother and his father, Henry Dinkins.
Police have not made any arrests related to the girl’s disappearance but have labeled Dinkins, 47, a person of interest.
Dinkins, who was convicted of a sex crime in 1990 when he was 17, was charged days after Breasia’s disappearance with violating sex offender registry requirements by failing to update his address, and having contact with minors. He’s awaiting trial on those charges. But a judge in December ruled that the allegations amounted to violations of the terms of his parole and ordered him to remain incarcerated for now.
Investigators have asked anyone with information about Dinkins’ whereabouts on July 9-10 to come forward, and have publicized photos of a maroon Chevy Impala and other vehicles associated with him.
Investigators searched for Breasia in rural Clinton County last July, citing “newly developed information,” but that search was called off days later, when Sikorski said police determined their time would be better spent following other leads.
Sikorski said he knows the community is anxious to see the perpetrator face justice in Breasia’s death. He called the discovery of her body tragic but a “big step” forward for the investigation and urged the public to have patience.
Investigators are piecing together evidence they have gathered over months to give “prosecutors everything they need to move forward,” he said.
The FBI had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the location of the girl, who would have turned 11 last December, or the arrest of anyone involved in her disappearance.
“The loss of Breasia will create a ripple effect of trauma throughout our entire community,” said Nicole Cisne Durbin, president and CEO of Family Resources, which announced free and confidential counseling services for anyone affected.