SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. - Residents in a close-knit Griffin community are grieving the loss of a 9-year-old girl during what's supposed to be a joyous time of year.
Spalding County investigators said 40-year-old Shane Collett kidnapped and murdered Skyler Dials, then concealed her death.
Collett was living in a home on Yarbrough Mill Road, some 30 yards away from Dials and her family. A stunned neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, told Channel 2’s Ashley Swann that Collett moved in a few months ago.
"It's just devastating. It's devastating for the little girl, for the family, for everyone involved," the neighbor said. "He was not one of our long-term persons in our community."
Investigators said Dials was last seen Friday morning going to visit a friend who neighbors said also lived in Collett's home.
Around 3:45 p.m. on Friday, family members realized she was missing and called police.
A massive search involving several local agencies and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations ended 10 hours later when Dial's body was found in woods nearby with no obvious signs of trauma, authorities said.
"She was more or less behind a large debris pile from a logging operation that went on out here at some point. But not covered per se. There was not debris on top of her," GBI special agent Wayne Smith said.
“We decided we would come put a stuffed animal and a couple letters there," Brittany Flix said.
Brittany Flix and her brother, Austin Flix, came with their parents to pay their respects at a memorial outside the girl's home Saturday night. They know the mother of Skyler's best friend and echoed the sadness everyone in their rural community is feeling.
"It's hard to tell your little girl that her best friend is gone," Austin Flix said. "So close to Christmas and everything."
Authorities said the autopsy report will be back after Christmas.
Collett, meanwhile, is being held at the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center. He was denied bond in a court appearance Sunday.
Check back for updates on this developing story.