(AP) A man was arrested in the death of a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped as she delivered newspapers in this western Nebraska town, authorities said.
Heather Guerrero’s body was found Wednesday in an abandoned house about 12 miles from Gering, where she was abducted a day earlier while delivering newspapers before dawn.
Jeffrey A. Hessler, 24, of Gering was arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, and use of a firearm to commit a felony, the Scotts Bluff County Attorney’s Office said.
He lived just a block from the girl, authorities said.
Deputy County Attorney Doug Warner said Hessler is believed to be the driver of a car a neighbor saw leaving the scene of the abduction. Hessler was questioned Tuesday, when he denied any connection to the abduction, Warner said.
A Nebraska State Patrol investigator and a Scottsbluff police detective recovered a gun when they made the arrest, but no other details were immediately released.
Heather’s body was found earlier in the day by her uncle and another relative in the basement of the house at Lake Minatare. The results of an autopsy were expected to be released Thursday, authorities said.
Jim Vance, a newspaper subscriber along Heather’s route, said he was walking his golden retriever when he heard a scream early Tuesday about 100 feet away. About 10 seconds later, a gray car with dark tinted windows sped by with its lights off, Vance said.
Vance said he walked toward the area the scream came from but saw no sign of foul play. He said he wondered if there had been a domestic dispute, and didn’t worry about it until about an hour later when police began patrolling the area.
He said he sometimes saw Heather delivering papers as he walked his dog.
“We’d cross paths, say ‘hi,'” Vance said. “Most of the time her father was with her. This was one of those times that, for whatever reason, he wasn’t.”
Heather, who had celebrated her 15th birthday Saturday, was last seen before 6 a.m. Tuesday when she began her paper route. Her parents called police about an hour later when she didn’t return home.
Last August, another 15-year-old girl delivering the same newspaper, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, was sexually assaulted while working before dawn, police said. That case remains unsolved.