Harrell admits guilt in Somer Thompson death

None — JACKSONVILLE (ActionNewsJax.com) -- The man accused of the murder of Somer Renee Thompson three years ago admitted in court Friday to her killing, accepting a plea deal that carries a life sentence in prison and ending a long ordeal for the girl's family.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Jarred Harrell, 26, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the October 2009 slaying of the 7-year-old girl. The plea deal averts the possibility of the death sentence.

When asked by the judge if he accepted the terms of the deal, Harrell, wearing shackles, replied by saying "Yes, sir." Harrell had faced several charges, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, molestation and sexual battery. He received multiple life sentences for the crimes, which will be served concurrently.

Somer vanished on Oct. 19, 2009 while walking home on Gano Avenue with her twin brother and a sister from Grove Park Elementary School. The girl's disappearance prompted a massive search by law enforcement officers and her family.

Her body was found in a south Georgia landfill two days after she disappeared. Police said she had been choked to death. During his hearing, Harrell admitted that he had asphyxiated the little girl.

Harrell had lived in the area where Somer was last seen. He was eventually taken into custody four months after the girl's death and was charged with 29 counts of child pornography. The pornography charges stemmed from materials found on a computer that contained sexually explicit images of young girls.

Hundreds of people attended the girl's funeral and the case prompted an enormous amount of outpouring from the community.

Somer's relatives, visibly sad and angry, confronted Harrell during the sentencing after the judge allowed them to address him.

"Somer was an innocent child," said Somer's mother, Diena Thompson. "Before you took her life, you took her innocence and her virginity . . . and then treated her like trash."

"Your selfish actions have forever changed so many lives," said Dawn Bruner, Somer's aunt. "You took away my right to say goodbye to my niece and left a void in my family."

"Not only did you take her light but your own," another of Somer's aunts said. "I am glad to see this part of the process behind us but in reality it will never be over."

ActionNewsJax.com Staff Writer Alfred Charles contributed to this report.