A man who called 911 to report the disappearance of a 9-year-old neighbor girl last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to raping and killing her and throwing her body in a trash bin at the trailer park where both lived.
Jerrod Metsker was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Metsker, who apologized in court to the girl's family, was the last person seen with Reann Murphy at their trailer park in Smithville, southwest of Akron, authorities said.
She was playing in the snow with several other children in a courtyard on Dec. 14, but the others went home, leaving Metsker alone with her, investigators said.
Hours later, a man identifying himself as Metsker reported Reann missing in a 911 call and joined neighbors who were frantically searching for her.
Her body was found a day later. The girl had been sexually assaulted and strangled, likely at Metsker's mobile home, prosecutors said.
Wayne County Prosecutor Dan Lutz said Wednesday that he agreed to a plea deal because Reann's parents decided they didn't want to pursue the death penalty. Metsker's low IQ could have made it difficult to get a death sentence, Lutz said.
Under the deal, he pleaded guilty to charges that included aggravated murder and rape.
Investigators with the county sheriff's office had said earlier that Metsker has a "diminished mental capacity" but didn't release information of a specific diagnosis.
They described Metsker as a family friend of the girl.
On the day she disappeared, Reann had been at home with her mother's live-in boyfriend while her mother was at work, authorities said.
Residents in the trailer park said that the 24-year-old Metsker often played outside with the neighborhood children and that he built a playhouse out of blankets, where he'd spend time with youngsters less than half his age.
Reann and her mother moved into the trailer park around the beginning of the school year, relatives said. They lived in an apartment above a maintenance garage.