A makeshift memorial of balloons, flowers and teddy bears continues to grow on the Ashland Avenue bridge over Eight Mile Creek near Pensacola, Fla., where the body of 12-year-old Naomi Jones was found in early June.
Public funeral services for Naomi are scheduled for noon on Friday, June 16, at Olive Baptist Church, 1836 E. Olive Road, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Naomi was a rising sixth-grader who attended Ferry Pass Middle School, where former principal Rhonda Shuford told local station WEAR-TV she was known for her dancing, her smile and for being full of life.
On June 5, Naomi’s body was found after she disappeared on May 31 from her family’s Aspen Village Apartments complex.
Volunteers from around the nation helped in the search and a $20,000 reward was offered for information leading to Naomi’s whereabouts, WEAR-TV reported.
Two men returning home from work had stopped in the area to check out the creek for fishing when they saw her body in the water and notified authorities, according to the TV station.
Convicted sex offender Robert Letroy Howard, 38, of Alabama, was charged on June 8 by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office with murder and kidnapping in connection to her death, as well as failure to register as a sex offender.
Sheriff David Morgan said Howard was convicted in 1999 on two counts of sexual assault and rape for which he served 15 years, AL.com reported.
“We’ve found our monster,” Morgan said at a news conference, according to People.com.
Al.com reported that the sheriff said Howard spent time with his girlfriend who lived at the same apartment complex as Naomi’s family. He also said surveillance video showed Howard’s car in the area where the girl’s body was left.
A preliminary autopsy report from authorities in Florida concluded that Naomi died of asphyxiation, a form of suffocation, the website reported.
Howard’s sister, Althea Walker, later defended her brother in an interview with WKRG, saying, “He’s not a monster.”