JO DAVIESS COUNTY, Ill. (Crime Library) A 57-year-old ex-convict who was a prime suspect in the disappearance last week of a teenage Iowa girl is being held in an Illinois jail, charged with taking the teen across state lines and murdering her.
But the arrest of Bruce Edward Burt, who shared the same Iowa hometown with the slain child, has raised as many questions as it has answered about the death of 13-year-old Donnisha Hill.
Chief among the questions authorities are trying to answer are these: What was Burt's connection to the teen, and are there any witnesses in Jo Daviess County or elsewhere who can shed light on the circumstances that led to her bludgeoning death?
Authorities in Illinois and Iowa are working the case, as are investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement officials from both states told Crime Library. Authorities say their investigation is continuing and have released few details about the case.
But authorities have confirmed that one avenue of investigation includes reports that in the weeks before her disappearance, Donnisha was seen in the company of an older man, who on at least one occasion is reported to have taken her into his van. Family members reportedly became so concerned about the contacts between the child and the as-yet-unnamed man that they filed a police complaint about the incidents and arranged to have Donnisha placed on a different school bus route to avoid him.
So far, investigators have not been able to positively link the reports to Donnisha's slaying, authorities said, nor have they determined whether the man in question was Burt or someone linked to him.
But they acknowledge that the teen, a student at Logan Middle School in Waterloo, vanished after school Friday on what was to have been her first day on the new bus route.
Family members reported the teen missing late Friday, and initial reports indicated that the child had gotten onto the wrong bus. But it is unclear whether the girl made a simple mistake or whether she intentionally got on the wrong bus. Instead of taking the new route home, she took the old one, authorities said.
Authorities say they have not yet determined whether she was abducted or went willingly with her killer, and perhaps as a result of that, no Amber Alert was issued for her. Instead, police notified media in Waterloo and surrounding communities and also entered her name on a national FBI database for missing persons.
The following morning, across the state line in Jo Daviess County, Ill, authorities received a 911 call from a homeowner in a rural neighborhood saying he had found a body on his property.
It took more than a day for authorities to complete an autopsy and positively identify the body as Donnisha's. The tragic results confirmed her family's worst fears. As her mother, 30-year-old Leneaka Johnson, told the DesMoines Register, "I knew when she didn't come home Friday...she wouldn't be alive."
The autopsy determined that the girl had died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head. Authorities have not said whether they believe the girl was sexually assaulted, but stressed that at this stage of the investigation there is little to suggest that the child was the victim of a random sexual attack. Instead, they suspect that the relationship between Donnisha and her accused killer was more complex. Authorities declined to elaborate while the investigation continues.
Evidence collected at the scene indicated that the girl was killed at the Illinois location where she was found, authorities told Crime Library. The next day, Waterloo police arrested Burt. Already considered a material witness to the slaying, Burt, who has a history of arrests, and spent four years in prison for a 1996 cocaine conviction, was charged in Illinois with first-degree murder.
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