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Bail set at $1 million for man held in rape of slain girl

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published January 15, 2014 at 1:43 p.m.

A 29-year-old man arrested this week in the rape of an 11-year-old Mississippi County girl found dead last year has been ordered held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Freddie Sharp III made an initial appearance Wednesday before Blytheville District Judge Shannon Langston, who set the high bail after finding probable cause to charge Sharp with rape, a Class Y felony. He faces up to life in prison.

Sharp was arrested after DNA found on 11-year-old Jessica Williams' body returned to him "within all scientific certainty,” Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington said in a statement.

According to an affidavit released Wednesday, Sharp spoke with investigators after his arrest, denying "any involvement of the rape and [stating] he didn't know how his DNA could have been on Williams."

Jessica's body was found Aug. 28 in a ditch near the Big Lake area a day after her father reported her missing from their home.

A neighbor, 17-year-old Christopher Sowell, was previously charged with first-degree murder in the case. He initially told police he had grabbed and choked the girl but later recanted and said he had not killed her, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Sowell was released from jail last week after his bail was lowered from $2 million to $25,000.

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