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New police chief vows to find killer

Published September 21, 2006

NORTH PORT - In just his 10th day on the job, North Port police Chief Terry Lewis found himself in front of a bank of TV cameras Wednesday vowing to capture the killer of 6-year-old Coralrose Fullwood.

"You're going to jail," he said to the as-yet-unknown perpetrator.

Lewis' measured confidence belied the flurry of behind-the-scenes activity by dozens of investigators who have been groping for clues since the girl's body was found at a wooded construction site two blocks from her family's home Sunday in this fast-growing Gulf Coast community between Sarasota and Fort Myers.

Lewis, who took the job after 27 years with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office and a couple more with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, acknowledged that the city's 43,000 residents are on edge, and he tried to assure them that investigators are making progress.

"There is absolutely no doubt about a successful conclusion in this case," said Lewis, who was the public face of the county Sheriff's Office after 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was abducted and slain in Sarasota in 2004. "The dots are starting to be connected slowly."

Coralrose's father said he last saw her at 2 a.m. Sunday when he checked her room after he got home from his bartending job. She disappeared later Sunday morning.

A neighbor walking his dog found her body at about noon behind a home under construction. Authorities have not released details about its condition or the cause of death. An autopsy report was still pending.

No one has been ruled out as a suspect, including the parents, Dale and Ellen-Beth Fullwood, Lewis said. Forty to 50 investigators on the case had fielded 64 leads and located sex offenders known to live in the area, and the FBI was helping develop a psychological profile of a potential killer, he said.

Four of Coralrose's siblings who lived at the home also were being questioned Wednesday, the family's attorney said.

The siblings were the subject of a marathon court hearing Tuesday after police investigators found filthy and deplorable conditions at the house, prompting the state's child welfare agency to take them into custody Monday.

A judge finally placed the children in the care of their grandparents, at least until the Fullwoods can clean up the house.

The judge also ordered that the parents not be left alone with the children and forbade family members from discussing the investigation with the children, who range in age from 4 to 12 years.

The Fullwoods, who moved to North Port from Cape Coral, near Fort Myers, have been the subject of six child neglect investigations by state officials in the past, but had never lost custody of the children, state officials said in court.

The family's attorney, John Coleman, said Wednesday the parents were cooperating with investigations and trying to get their house in order so they could get their children back and prepare to bury Coralrose.

"They still haven't even grieved the loss of their daughter," Coleman said. "That's the first step."

[Last modified September 21, 2006, 01:16:04]

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