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Mr. Plumadore said it wasn’t until he talked with Aliahna’s mother about 8:30 p.m. that they realized she was missing and police were notified. Ms. Souders said the miscommunication caused the delay in determining that Aliahna had vanished.

“She’s never wandered off,” she said Sunday.

The sheriff said Mr. Plumadore was arrested after being interviewed by detectives for several hours Monday — and was also questioned Friday and Saturday.

“The story just didn’t make sense to our investigators or to me when I first heard it,” Sheriff Fries said. “I thought this is the guy we needed to focus on. If we are going to find her, he’s going to be the one who has the answers for us.”

Elizabeth Watkins, who lives nearby, said residents are cautious and keep to themselves in part because of the number of sex offenders living in the mobile home park. According to a state website, 15 registered sex offenders live in the park, which numbers about two dozen homes. Ms. Watkins and she didn’t know Mr.  Plumadore and was shocked when told of the girl’s death.

“I’m numb; I’m totally numb. I don’t know what to think,” she said.