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Smyrna police announce breakthrough in 2019 child remains case but release few details

Isabel Hughes
Delaware News Journal

Thirteen months after a dog walker found the remains of a young girl while strolling through a Smyrna softball field, police said they've made a "breakthrough" — but released little other information.

On Tuesday, police said "persons of interest" in the case have been arrested out of state. The investigation, which began on Sept. 13, 2019, "remains very active," according to Smyrna Police spokesman Cpl. Brian Donner.

Donner said detectives, who are being helped by the FBI, are still executing search warrants, processing evidence and conducting interviews.

Investigators work at the scene where possible human remains were found near a softball field in Smyrna.

"If and when the persons of interest are transferred to our custody, we will announce their full details as well as any crimes they are being charged with," Donner said.

RELATED:Still few answers about remains of child found at Smyrna softball fields

He said no other information is being released at the moment, and did not respond to a reporter's question as to whether the girl whose remains were found has been identified.

The investigation began last year when Smyrna police were called to Little Lass Fields, which serve as softball fields for Little League girls in the area, on Duck Creek Parkway around 4:30 p.m. on a Friday.

After a child's remains were found at the Little Lass softball fields in Smyrna, police released a sketch of what they believe the girl looked like.

A person walking a dog spotted the child's remains and called police, Donner said at the time. The fields are across the road from Smyrna Middle School.

INITIAL STORY:Possible human remains in Smyrna under investigation by police

Police said there was evidence of a fire at the scene and called in the state fire marshal's office to help. Investigators roped off the area with police tape and closed Duck Creek Parkway.

Tents and tarps to protect evidence could be seen at the site of the investigation a day after the initial discovery.

BACKGROUND:Police say human remains found in Smyrna are believed to be those of a young child

In the weeks and months that followed, Smyrna police enlisted the help of departments across the region and in other states, trying to find a match for the remains of the girl.

The department also began working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Delaware Division of Forensic Science to try to identify the girl.

In November 2019, police released a sketch of the child in the hopes of solving the mystery of her death. At the time, police said they hoped the facial reconstruction sketches would prompt tipsters to come forward with either the girl's identity or possible suspect information.

READ:Smyrna child remains: Police release sketch of girl, ask for help identifying her

The girl, who was likely Caucasian or Hispanic, was 2 to 5 years old, police said when they released the sketches.

Investigators work at the scene where possible human remains were found near a softball field in Smyrna.

She had slightly wavy brown hair, and an "anthropological exam of her remains suggests that she suffered from chronic illness(es)." Investigators believe she was dead for "several weeks or possibly longer" before she was found.

Donner told Delaware Online/The News Journal in April that investigators performed "multiple different forensic tests to include creating a DNA profile for comparison purposes."

"We have been getting continual tips from the public and this has been greatly aided by NCMEC's involvement in the case as well," he said.

Still, Donner did not say whether the girl's identity is now known.

Many questions, including who she was, where she came from and how she got to the field, remain unanswered

Send story tips or ideas to Isabel Hughes at ihughes@delawareonline.com or 302-324-2785. For all things breaking news, follow her on Twitter at @izzihughes_