- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

VALLEY PARK, Mo. (AP) A body believed to be that of a 6-year-old girl who vanished yesterday morning was found in an abandoned glass factory in the afternoon, and police arrested a man who spent the night at the home where she and her father had been staying.
St. Louis County Police Chief Ron Battelle said the body had not been identified, "but we feel certain it is" Cassandra Williamson.
Chief Battelle said Johnny Johnson, 24, was arrested and was cooperating with police. Mr. Johnson spent the night at a home shared by Cassandra's father, Ernie Williamson and a roommate, Mr. Williamson said.
Mr. Williamson and Cassandra's mother, Angela Williamson, had separated but still spent some nights together at a neighbor's home, where Mr. Williamson had been staying for about a week. Thursday night, the entire family stayed at the home Ernie and Angela Williamson and their four children.
Police described Mr. Johnson as a local transient who sometimes slept in the factory. Mr. Williamson said he had known Mr. Johnson only a few days and that his roommate and Mr. Johnson were up late drinking the previous night. He said Mr. Johnson was sleeping on the couch yesterday morning.
Authorities said Cassandra was in the kitchen around 7:30 a.m. with her father. Mr. Williamson said he was about to pour his daughter a bowl of cereal and left the room briefly to go the bathroom. When he returned, the girl, barefoot and dressed in a white nightgown, was gone.
The father said he also noticed that Mr. Johnson was gone. About a half-hour later, Mr. Williamson said, Mr. Johnson returned to the house, wet and muddy, and said he had been swimming in the nearby river. Police began questioning him soon after he returned.
Before the body was found, Cassandra's mother, Angela, said, "She never walks off without telling me she's going somewhere. She doesn't even go to her friend's house without telling me she was going. I just want my baby."
As word of the disappearance spread, volunteers began joining in the search, which included helicopters and bloodhounds.


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