World isn't safe for 9-year-old girls

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James Lee Troutman, 24, was charged with murder Tuesday in the death of Skyler Kauffman, 9, who was reported missing Monday.

Between the dark and the daylight,

When the night is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,

That is known as the Children’s Hour.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What should have been a safe time of the day for 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman, a time to play outside in spring’s late sunlight before being summoned inside to wind down and, eventually, go to bed, instead became a horrible nightmare for the little girl.

Police say the child was lured into the basement of a Souderton apartment complex around 5 p.m. Monday, where she was raped and strangled to death. Her assailant is believed to have banged Skyler’s head against the concrete floor over and over again.

It’s never easy to accept a child’s death, whether it comes by some dread illness or a tragic accident, but especially when it is at the hands of an adult who would take advantage of a little girl's vulnerability. That, it seems, is what happened to little Skyler.

Police have arrested a suspect, a 24-year-old neighbor, James Lee Troutman, who was charged with with first- and second-degree murder, kidnapping, and several sex crimes. He was denied bond at a hearing Tuesday.

A jury will likely get to determine Troutman’s guilt or innocence. But a previous accusation against him appears to strengthen the prosecution’s case.

Three weeks ago, police were called to the scene after Troutman allegedly locked Skyler and a playmate in his apartment and offered to show them “his bird.” He reportedly let the girls go only after they began screaming.

It’s understandable that Skyler’s relatives and friends wish Troutman had been arrested then. But Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman says there just wasn’t enough evidence of a crime.

“Everyone did what they were supposed to do and unfortunately it wasn’t enough to prevent the death of this child,” she said.

At least the incident gave police a solid lead to follow after discovering the missing girl’s bludgeoned body, wrapped in a comforter and tossed into a nearby trash bin.

Troutman reportedly had dinner with his fiancee later that evening. She told police that she heard screaming when Skyler was probably being beaten. But when she called Troutman, he said everything would be OK.

Skyler’s mother believes everything is OK for her child now. “She’s in heaven now,” said Heather Gebhard. “That’s all I can say. She’s safe.” Safety is what is wished for every child, but unfortunately, in this world, it is not guaranteed.

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