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Unanswered questions in Somer Thompson's slaying

Friday's hearing of Jarred Harrell could provide answers

Somer Thompson

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – If Jarred Harrell pleads guilty on Friday as expected, the public may finally learn exactly what happened to Somer Thompson.

At 1 p.m. Friday, Jarred Harrell is expected to plead guilty in three separate cases: the murder and abduction of Somer, child molestation of a 3-year-old girl and possession of child pornography.

In exchange for the pleas, he is expected to avoid the death penalty and instead be sentenced to life in prison.

Although prosecutors have always said they had a strong case against Harrell, it's unclear exactly what evidence they have and what they know.

Some of the many unanswered questions include: How was Somer abducted in the first place as she walked home from her Orange Park school on Oct. 19, 2009? Was she lured or did she somehow wander into the wrong place at the wrong time? Was she familiar with her attacker before she was abducted?

Somer's body was discovered in a Georgia landfill less then 48 hours after she disappeared. Investigators removed truckloads of evidence from the Gano Avenue home where Harrell lived, including a shed from the back yard.

It's also unclear if Somer's attacker intended to kill her. Investigators say she was raped and asphyxiated.

When Somer vanished, police were already investigating Harrell for child porn images found on a computer believed to belong to him.

Harrell was arrested on those child porn charges four months later, and the murder charge was added about a month later.

Harrell could also make a statement during the proceedings, and a gag order on lawyers and investigators is expected to be lifted after the hearing. State Attorney Angela Corey and Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler are expected to answer questions.

Either way, the development could give her family and the community the closure they've been seeking for nearly two and a half years.