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Juvenile arrested and charged with rape, murder of 11-year-old McKenzie Sessoms

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An arrest has been made in the case of McKenzie Sessoms, the 11-year-old girl who “loved riding horses, putting on makeup and hanging out with her friends” before she was found raped and murdered in her Salemburg, N.C. home on Sept. 6, 2013. After eight long months and an untiring investigation into the young girl’s murder, police in Sampson County arrested a juvenile on May 6 and charged him with Sessoms’ first-degree murder and rape.

WRAL reported that the news of the juvenile’s arrest came from Sheriff Jimmy Thornton at a press conference yesterday. As the investigation is still ongoing, Thornton wouldn’t identify the suspect by name, and would not go into detail as to the suspect’s age or motive for killing Sessoms. We do know that the male juvenile is younger than the age of 16.

Thornton did share that the boy in custody came from a suspect pool of more than a dozen individuals. Thornton also said that during the course of police interviews and their investigation into Sessoms’ murder, that authorities did collect and process DNA evidence. We’re left to assume that some of that evidence is directly tied to the juvenile arrested yesterday.

"Unfortunately, I cannot release specifics of the investigation due to the integrity of impending legal proceedings and the fact that my detectives are still conducting investigative work related to the case," Thornton said.

Sessoms was a fifth-grader at Salemburg Elementary School who lived in her Salemburg home with her father and siblings, according to ABC News. On the morning of Sept. 6, her father found her unresponsive “and covered in a quilt on her living room couch.” The coroner’s report concluded that the little girl had been raped and suffocated. The report also stated that her brothers “had a ‘rowdy gathering’ with friends the previous night and that her oldest brother went to bed around midnight.”

Cathy Starke, Sessoms' grandmother, shared that her granddaughter wanted to be a nurse or a teacher when she grew up. Starke expressed her gratitude to police for a job done well. "Now just keep us in your prayers," she said.