Body identified as missing child, 7

May 31, 1988
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CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. -- A state medical examiner confirmed Tuesday that the nude body of a girl found in a wooded area on Memorial Day was that of Michelle Norris, 7, who vanished from a school yard last weekend.

The youngster was the fifth missing child to be found dead in thestate since last November.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Kristin Sweeney said an autopsy determined the girl died from suffocation and ruled the case a homicide.

Laboratory tests were being conducted to determine whether Norris was sexually assaulted, Sweeney said.

Police declined to say whether they had any leads in the case.

The autopsy showed she died the same day of her disappearance and her body revealed 'some minor injuries,' Sweeney said, declining to be more specific.

Volunteer searchers found Norris' body about 6 p.m. Monday with what appeared to be her clothes folded neatly nearby. Authorities said there were bruises on the body, though Sweeney would not confirm that.

Norris was found three blocks from the grounds of the Hunt Primary School, where she attended first grade and was last seen Saturday evening playing hide-and-seek with her cousins and brothers.

'It's just a sad commentary on society,' said Attorney General James O'Neil, who is investigating the case with the FBI, local and state police. 'Five child homicides in a six-month period is just a sad commentary on life.'

Two men have been arrested for allegedly killing three of the children.

At the Hunt school, a team of psychologists, social workers, nurses, and administrators was formed to help students who wanted to talk about the death of their schoolmate, Superintendent Roland Denault said.

Two Providence boys, Frankie Barnes, 9, and Jason Wolf, 6, were abducted and killed late last year. William Sarmento, 21, of Providence has been indicted for the slayings.

On Feb. 29, the body of Christine Cole, 10, of Pawtucket, washed up on a Warwick beach, 53 days after she left home to buy groceries. Investigators are not sure she was slain, but a drifter awaiting trial on charges of raping two Lexington, Mass., girls reportedly had a newspaper clipping of Cole and her cemetery plot number in his motel room when arrested.

In early April, Justin Ellinwood, 9, Warwick, was found dead in a brook one day after he was reported missing. Police have filed a murder charge against a man, 29, who allegedly committed break-ins with the boy before killing him.

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