(Scottsbluff, Neb.) - The search for 8-year-old Kerra Wilson has ended with the discovery of her body in a remote area of Sioux County.
In the early evening hours Thursday, investigators from the Nebraska State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were notified by a local rancher alerting them to an area several miles north of Mitchell that he felt needed to be examined.
Upon their arrival, investigators located what is believed to be the body of 8-year-old Kerra Wilson.
Preliminary identification of the body was made through articles of clothing, physical characteristics and evidence found at the scene. Due to the rugged terrain and time of night, investigators were unable to move the body and process the scene.
Based on the discovery of Kerra's body and the evidence at the scene, Kerra's stepfather, Salvador Carlos Lopez, 32, Mitchell, was arrested.
Lopez is being held in the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center on a charge of first-degree murder.
It is unclear when Kerra was killed and police say the motive is unknown.
"We were hoping to bring Kerra safely home to her family; sadly we weren't able to do that," said Lt. Monica Bartling of the Nebraska State Patrol. "We will continue gathering evidence in this case and work with the Sioux County Attorney to prosecute Salvador Lopez to the fullest extent of the law."
Kerra was reported missing by her family just before 3 p.m. Wednesday. Initial reports were that Kerra had been last seen in the parking lot of the Mitchell Elementary School after being dropped off by Lopez.
It was determined through subsequent interviews with school staff and classmates that Kerra could not be placed anywhere on school grounds.
"The cooperation of the staff of Mitchell Elementary was key in determining that Kerra never made it to school on Wednesday," Lt. Bartling said. "This has been a very difficult time for everyone involved and I want to thank the school staff, community volunteers and local law enforcement for their efforts and cooperation during this very difficult time. "
Kerra was the oldest of four children living in the home. Police say the three other children are now in the care of relatives.
Police say it is unknown whether or not Kerra's mother, Amanda Lopez, was involved.
The recovery of Kerra's body and investigation into her death continues. An autopsy is planned after the crime scene is processed.
The Nebraska State Patrol and the FBI were assisted in the investigation by Team Adam, Mitchell, Morrill, Scottsbluff and Gering Police Departments, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff's Office and the Scotts Bluff County CERT Team.
Courtesy: Nebraska State Patrol