Culprit still at large 12 years after murder of 4-year-old

Culprit still at large 12 years after murder of 4-year-old

Police say they think they know who did it. They can’t identify the suspect legally, but they think they know. Orange County District Attorney John Kimbrough says, in time, science will prevail and the culprit will be caught, but for now there is nothing he can do without potentially endangering the viability of the case.

The brutal 2002 murder of 4-year-old Dannarriah Finley of Orange remains unsolved, but there is still hope, and there is still time, according to the police and the district attorney.

“A homicide case is never closed,” said Orange Police Department Captain Cliff Hargrave. “There is no statute of limitations on homicide.”

According to Hargrave, OPD is still hard at work following up on evidence collected about 12 years ago to the day when Dannarriah’s body was discovered near Pleasure Island on July 8, 2002, four days after she was reported missing from her home in Orange.

The search

Dannarriah’s mother, Jamie Arnold, searched for her child throughout her neighborhood in Orange for hours before calling the Orange Police Department. Immediately, the OPD called the FBI.

According to reports from 2002, Arnold told investigators she lay Dannarriah down to sleep in her white bunk bed at about 1:30 a.m. on July 4 in a room with other children at the home. When she awoke and looked for her daughter at about 10 a.m., Dannarriah was nowhere to be found. She told police she often left her front door unlocked and was afraid someone had abducted Dannarriah. Police report they found no evidence of forced entry into the home.

Arnold was reportedly under the scrutiny of Child Protective Services at the time of Dannarriah’s disappearance, and surrendered her other children to caregivers outside her home.

Numerous concerned citizens, family members and law enforcement agencies took part in the search for the missing child, even offering a reward for her safe return. Dannarriah’s family publicly pleaded for her kidnapper to bring her back home unharmed. Police pledged they would not rest until the child was found.

July 8, 2002, on Day 4 of the search, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspectors found Dannariah’s body in an isolated area of Pleasure Island. Her body showed signs of severe decomposition, and it took two days to positively identify the young child. An autopsy was inconclusive regarding the specific cause of death, but revealed that Dannarriah was raped and murdered.

Double jeopardy

No one has yet been charged in Dannarriah’s murder, but police believe they know who killed the young girl.

“We have a suspect,” Captain Hargrave asserts. “We’ve had one since early on in the investigation. We have some pretty strong circumstantial evidence.”

DA Kimbrough says that is not enough, and if the case went to trial now, he could not be sure of a conviction. If he did try the case now and lost, and then conclusive evidence arose, the defendant would be protected from later prosecution for the same crime, what’s known as double jeopardy.

“A great deal of forensic evidence was collected, but there has never been enough evidence developed to even present the case to a grand jury,” Kimbrough reported in e-mail correspondence. “I think that the case will be solved eventually through science. Forensic technology improves dramatically every year. Investigators routinely talk to the Crime Lab to see if technology now exists to test certain items connected with the investigation. We aren’t there yet.”

Kimbrough said he has not forgotten about the case and believes it can still be eventually successfully prosecuted due to the expertise of the investigators who worked on it.

“I promise you, the case didn’t fall through the cracks,” said Kimbrough. “If there was sufficient evidence, the case would obviously have already been filed. The initial investigation was really well done, and that is why I believe the case is still viable. I hope and pray that the case is solved and the killer is brought to justice but you cannot bring charges without evidence.”

OPD’s Captain Hargrave said he agrees with the DA.

“There is no conflict with the police and the DA on this case,” Hargrave said. “There were no witnesses. We have a lot of evidence, but it’s not enough yet.”

Anyone with information on the abduction, rape and murder of Dannarriah Finley should call the Orange Police Department at (409) 883-1026.