KENNETT, MO. (AP) -- A southeast Missouri man was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for abducting and killing a 3-year-old neighbor girl in 2011.
Shawn Morgan, of Senath, was sentenced after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping. He had been scheduled to go to trial in August.
Breeann Rodriguez went missing Aug. 6, 2011, while riding a small pink bicycle with training wheels near her home.
Her disappearance set off a frantic search. Residents of Senath, a town of 1,600 residents near the Arkansas border, joined the FBI, Missouri State Highway Patrol and local police in the search.
Her body was found on the banks of a drainage ditch 10 days later, about eight miles outside of the small community.
Morgan was arrested three days before the body was found. According to a probable cause statement, he told police he suffocated the girl with a white plastic trash bag after finding her on the ladder of his above-ground backyard swimming pool. He said he put the body in the trash bag, drove to a floodway outside of town and threw the bag over a railing into the ditch.
He also told police that he went home and dismantled the girl’s bike, which he dumped in the same area where he left the body.
“I’m pleased to have this resolved,” Dunklin County prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff told the Daily Dunklin Democrat newspaper in Kennett, Mo. “I know the Rodriguez family is. That was a big factor in this.”
A message seeking comment from Morgan’s attorneys, Columbia, Mo.-based public defender Thomas Marshall, was not immediately returned.