The Associated Press
An autopsy scheduled for today could give authorities more information on what killed a 10-year-old girl, whose disappearance and death have shaken a community that had not had a murder in 25 years.
Though the girl was from the Seymour area, the statewide Amber Alert issued Jan. 27 for the abduction of Katlyn Collman, 10, Crothersville, prompted Clay and Vigo county law enforcement officials to pursue a white pickup truck fitting the description of the suspected vehicle late last week.
At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, police scanner traffic indicated a motorist had made a 911 call about a white pickup truck with a blue tailgate traveling on I-70. The vehicle matched the description of the late 1980s or early 1990s model white Ford F-150 truck last seen in the Crothersville area.
The eastbound vehicle crossed from Vigo County into Clay County, and was observed cutting across the median before the vehicle exited onto S.R. 59 North. Units from the Clay County Sheriff's Dept. positioned police vehicles along the suspect's projected route, and at one point had one vehicle in front of and one behind the suspicious pickup.
Law enforcement officials determined it was not the same vehicle or driver who may have kidnapped Collman, but a local resident.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts explained four criteria are used before an Amber Alert is issued in Indiana. The child must be in imminent danger, be younger than 18 years old, authorities must be provided with a definitive description of the child and the alert must be recommended by a police department.
A state trooper found the body of Katlyn "Katie" Collman in a stream Sunday, five days after she apparently accepted a ride from a young man in a truck while she returned home from running an errand.
Police say the missing person's case has now turned into a homicide investigation, the first in Crothersville, a town of about 15,000 people about 40 miles north of Louisville, in 25 years.
The trooper found the body in a wooded area about a quarter of a mile off Interstate 65 about five miles north of Seymour, Sgt. Jerry Goodin of the Indiana State Police said at a news conference.
Goodin did not disclose how the Crothersville girl died or how long her body may have been in the stream about 20 miles north of her hometown. The autopsy was scheduled to be done in Louisville, Ky.
"This is a saddening day for law enforcement officials," Goodin said. "We've come to know Katie. It hits everyone very hard."
Neighbor Alisa Sweazy's son knew Katie.
"It's very emotional and really hard because it's coming to an end and it wasn't the ending that we wanted," she said.
Another Crothersville woman said her son told her he did not feel safe in his home anymore.
"I just said God is with us, and he takes care of us. And mommy and daddy are watching over you," she said.
The discovery of the body about 10 a.m. Sunday came three days after authorities issued an Amber Alert for her and two days after her parents issued a public appeal for her safe return. Also on Friday, authorities released a sketch of a young man whom a witness said was driving a pickup truck in which Collman was seen.
Police said they have leads in the case, but did not release any further information, only a warning to the abductor.
"We won't stop until we find you," Goodin said.
A $10,000 reward for information in the case remains offered.
No family members spoke during the news conference Sunday afternoon at the Vernon Township Fire Department in Crothers-ville, which has served as the command post for agencies that mobilized to search for the girl. It was there that Collman's parents, Angie Collman and John Neace, issued a written statement appealing for their daughter's safe return.
"Please do not harm her. We ask that you just drop her off anywhere so that she may return to a family and community that loves her very much and misses her dearly," the statement said.
Crothersville Police Chief Norman Ford said in a news release that officers were saddened by Collman's death.
"The full resources of local, state and federal law enforcement will continue to investigate this case to apprehend the person or persons responsible for this reprehensible crime," he said.
Collman's family had last seen her about 4 p.m. Tuesday as she walked to a store about three blocks from her home to buy toilet paper, investigators said. A clerk told investigators that the girl bought the toilet paper, and an acquaintance talked to her about a block away as she headed home.
A witness who saw Collman in the truck said she looked like a normal passenger.
"There was no sign of her being held against her will or trying to get out," Goodin said at the time.
Goodin said authorities waited two days to issue an Amber Alert for Collman because they needed a lead in her disappearance. Alert criteria say authorities must have a lead on a missing child's whereabouts before an alert can be issued.
Once police received a description of a truck -- a white Ford F-150 pickup truck about 15 years old that appeared to be clean and well-maintained -- they issued the alert, Goodin said.
The sketch of the truck's driver shows a very thin white male, 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet tall, 18 and 20 years old with short, dark hair and a fair complexion. A description said the man smokes cigarettes.
Collman, a fourth-grader at Crothersville Elementary, "always had a smile on her face," said Terry Goodin, superintendent of the Crothersville schools.
Counselors would be available at Collman's school on Monday, said Terry Goodin, who's also a Democratic state representative and the brother of the state police sergeant.
U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate up to 4,600 children are abducted by strangers every year (about 12 children nationwide every day). The Amber Alert Plan is named after Amber Hagerman, whose kidnapping and murder in 1996 in Texas was never solved. The Amber Alert Plan was put into place in Texas in 1997 after a person suggested newscasters broadcast information about children believed to be abducted as they would if there was a weather-related or other emergency. Indiana launched its Amber Plan on Oct. 1, 2002.