Jarred Harrell pleads guilty to killing Somer Thompson, given 6 life sentences
Man receives multiple life sentences for killing 7-year-old Somer Thompson
CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – As dozens of her family and friends packed a crowded courtroom wearing shades of purple, Jarred Harrell pleaded guilty Friday in the abduction, molestation and slaying of a 7-year-old Somer Thompson.
The 26-year-old also pleaded guilty in two other cases, including child molestation of a 3-year-old girl and possession of child pornography -- a total of 59 charges.
Harrell was sentenced to a total of six life terms prison -- four in connection with Somer's kidnapping and murder -- under a plea agreement prosecutors and defense attorneys reached with Harrell, thus avoiding a trial and the possibility of the death penalty.
"It is absolutely inconceivable to me and I think to any sane, rational person how you could have committed these acts upon these innocent children," Circuit Judge Don Lester said in sentencing Harrell. "With this plea agreement, you are going to die in prison. You will have the rest of your natural life in prison to contemplate the actions committed and the indescribable suffering you have caused to these victims and their families."
Harrell, present in the courtroom for the first time since shortly after his arraignment in 2010, admitted that he confined Somer, sexually assaulted her, lewdly touched her in her private areas and strangled her. He admitted that he then put her body in a container and then put the container in a commercial Dumpster on Village Square Parkway in Fleming Island.
Investigators say they recovered DNA from Somer's body that matched Harrell.
Court documents released after the one-hour hearing say that Somer reguarly played with a dog at Harrell's house, which was on her way home from school. Investigators suggest that he used the premise of playing with the dog to lure her into his house.
The arrest report, also released for the first time Friday, says Harrell admitted that he kidnapped and killed Somer when he was being driven to Clay County from Mississippi, where he was arrested on child pornography charges months after the murder.
Diena Thompson, Somer's mother, and other family members and supporters dressed in purple, Somer's favorite color, attended the hearing, something Thompson has done since the man convicted of killing her daughter was arrested.
"Your punishment does absolutely not fit your crime," Somer's mother, Diena Thompson said to Harrell in court Friday.
Somer's family said they agreed to the plea deal because Harrell agreed not to appeal any of his convictions.
"This will be that last breath that I waste and use on you. It is now time to take out the trash," Somer's mother said.
Somer was kidnapped Oct. 19, 2009, while walking home from school and found dead in a southeast Georgia landfill two days later.
Several relatives made impact statements at the hearing, addressing Harrell directly.
"Once again, I think that you should look at me, the mother of the child that you strangled and raped and threw in the trash, but cowardly as always, you can keep your head buried," Thompson said to Harrell while on the court stand. "Somer was an innocent child. Before you took her life, you took her dignity, her virginity, and then you took her life. After all that, you then treated my child like trash. I don't know why. Only you can answer that question. There is no reason that you could provide me. There is only your own pitiful, sorry excuses."
Thompson said she doesn't think the court's punishment is enough.
"Your punishment absolutely does not fit your crime," she said. "Your admission of guilt made it possible for good people to spare your sorry life, obviously a foreign concept to you."
"This will be the last breath that I waste or use on you," Thompson said before leaving the witness stand. "As with the last breath, I would like to tell this honorable court that it is now time to take out the trash. May God have mercy on your sorry, sorry soul."
Before speaking, Thompson walked to the stand with Somer's twin brother, Samuel, who also made a brief statement.
"We know you did this. We have evidence. She trusted you, but you had to do what you did, and look where it got you, and now you're going to jail," he said, staring down Harrell.
Other relatives of Somer's also spoke in court.
"Your selfish actions have forever changed so many lives," Somer's aunt, Dawn Burner, said to Harrell in impact statements. "Knowing you will never be able to hurt anyone else again is the only peace I get from this senseless act you have committed."
"Do you know what you did to my family on Oct. 19, 2009? You took everything," Debbie Bowling, Somer's grandmother, said while crying. "How could you? ... How could you kill a defenseless little 7-year-old girl that only loved everybody?"
She said Somer's twin and other siblings all took the blame for something Harrell did.
"You are no longer a person or a gentle giant. You are a monster, and you should be treated so," she added. "Do you know where they put monsters? They go to big boy prison, and I hope the prison system will show you a real good time like you did Somer."
"I don't even know how you can live with yourself," Somer's older sister, Abi Thompson, told Harrell. "You're not even a human being. Your name is not Jarred Harrell. Your name is monster."
Recalling road to justice for Somer
Within hours after Somer's kidnapping was reported more than two years ago, hundreds of people -- many who had never met the girl -- joined the search. By the time her body was found, thousands who had never met Somer felt the loss.
The investigation into who killed Somer was frustratingly slow, but the Sheriff's Office was persistent.
On Feb. 11, 2010, Harrell, a former Orange Park resident, was arrested in Meridian, Miss., on 29 charges of possession of child pornography and was named a person of interest in the case.
That same day, Clay County detectives and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement searched a house in the 1100 block of Gano Avenue, not far from where Somer lived.
On March 26, 2010, Harrell was charged with murder in Somer's death.
Investigators said they found child pornography on a computer that belonged to Harrell, which led them to him. They found out he lived near Somer's home in Orange Park. Eventually, investigators found him at a relative's house in Mississippi.
Details of the case have been under tight guard with a gag order in place. The gag order was removed after the guilty plea.
State of Florida vs. Jarred Mitchell Harrell
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