NOVATO, Calif. — Police arrested a church groundskeeper Wednesday on suspicion of murder in the strangulation of Jennifer Moore, a popular 13-year-old girl whose nude body was found near a highway here.
Sgt. Scott Sibbard identified the suspect as Scott Martin Williams, 29, of Novato, described as a volunteer groundskeeper at Bethel Baptist Church.
Williams, a burly man with a black beard and glasses, was booked on suspicion of murder after voluntarily accompanying police who had questioned him at the church, Sibbard said.
Sibbard said Williams "made a statement to officers" but did not elaborate.
The sergeant added that there was a "possible link" between Williams and the disappearances of several other Bay Area girls. Again there was no elaboration.
The police spokesman said investigators believe that Moore was strangled in the church library. Her body was put in plastic bags and dumped near Novato Boulevard under some branches.
Sibbard said bloodstains on the church library floor had been covered up with coffee in an attempt to hide them. The police sergeant said there was also blood spattered on the furniture in the church and "other physical evidence."
He said investigators connected Moore's murder with the church after finding Bible books near the body. They then matched the books with volumes at the Bethel Baptist Church, he said.
In an emotional plea after the police announcement, Karen Sedgwick, the dead child's godmother and a longtime friend of Sylvia Moore, the dead girl's mother, begged that Mrs. Moore be left alone.
"She is taking it badly," Sedgwick said.
Moore disappeared last Thursday and was the object of a frantic search that saw more than 20,000 flyers distributed throughout the Bay Area. Hers was the fourth disappearance of a young girl in the Bay Area since last summer. Ilene Misheloff, 13, disappeared in January on her way to an ice rink in Dublin; Michaela Garecht, 9, was abducted outside a Hayward market last November, and Amber Swartz-Garcia disappeared while she was playing in the front yard of her Pinole home last June.