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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Ramon Antonio Vargas

Evidence of human trafficking found in murder of four-year-old Louisiana girl

Police officers gather near a wooded lot.
Police at a wooded area on 13 June 2024 in Jackson, Mississippi, near where two abducted girls were found, one dead and the other alive. Photograph: AP

Authorities investigating the abduction and death of a four-year-old Louisiana girl whose body was found in Mississippi say they uncovered evidence of possible human trafficking where the child was discovered.

The evidence included cages meant for small animals, said investigators who had arrested Daniel Callihan, 36, and Victoria Cox, 32, with the killing of Erin Brunett.

Callihan had dated Erin’s mother, 35-year-old Callie Brunett, whose father found murdered in her home on Thursday in Loranger, Louisiana, about 60 miles (100km) east of the state capital of Baton Rouge. Brunett had been reported missing after no one had spoken with her since Tuesday, according to the local sheriff’s office.

Authorities didn’t immediately release details about the manner in which Brunett was slain. But they soon issued a child abduction – or Amber – alert for Brunett’s daughters, Erin and her six-year-old sister. Callihan was said to have Callie Brunett’s car.

Erin Brunett was later found dead in a wooded area south of Jackson, Mississippi. The older sister was found injured but alive nearby and brought to a Jackson hospital, authorities said.

By Friday, both Callihan and Cox – whom investigators described as a possible girlfriend of Callihan – were arrested on counts of capital murder and sexual battery. The two could face the death penalty if convicted as charged.

Callihan spoke with reporters on Friday as authorities in Jackson walked him into a police station. Referring to the murder of Erin Brunett, he said: “I did it.”

He also claimed to have a history of mental health problems and was taking an antidepressant before saying: “For what I did, lethal injection is the easiest thing for me.”

Callihan did not make any statements apparently linking him to Callie Brunett’s death, but he is a suspect in her killing, investigators have acknowledged.

The case provides a reminder of how Louisiana has long had one of the highest rates of homicides against women among US states. A 2021 report showed the rate at which women in Louisiana were murdered by men was 85% higher than the national average.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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