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Abducted child found dead and sister injured in suspected human trafficking case, authorities say

Abduction and killing suspect Daniel Callihan was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, on Thursday. (Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office via CNN Newsource) Abduction and killing suspect Daniel Callihan was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, on Thursday. (Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office via CNN Newsource)

A Louisiana man arrested in the killing of a woman and her young daughter is believed to have had an accomplice, Jackson Police Department said on Friday.

The suspect, 36-year-old Daniel Callahin, was arrested Thursday after a 35-year-old mother was found dead and her two abducted daughters were later discovered in Mississippi – one dead and the other alive – in what investigators say may be a human trafficking case. Callahin’s alleged accomplice, Victoria Cox, 32, was arrested on Friday at a motel in south Jackson, Jackson Police Chief Joseph Wade said.

Callihan is accused of “committing brutal and heinous acts of violence,” including the killings of Callie Brunett and her 4-year-old daughter, said the sheriff’s office in Tangipahoa Parish, just north of New Orleans.

Cox is being questioned and police said they are trying to determine her exact role in the incident. “Based on information that I got yesterday and early this morning, she is an acquaintance and possibly girlfriend of Mr. Callahin,” Wade said.

Jackson investigators said the wooded neighbourhood where the girls were found showed signs the location could have been used for human trafficking, including small animal cages.

“Our hearts are with all those affected by this tragic event. These are unspeakable crimes,” parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said in a social media post. “We ask everyone to keep Callie’s family in your prayers.”

Earlier Thursday, an Amber Alert was issued for Brunett’s abducted daughters, ages 4 and 6, after the mother was found dead in her home, according to Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Jimmy Travis.

After hours of searching, law enforcement in Jackson, Mississippi – about a 2-hour drive from Tangipahoa – tracked down the suspect and found a “tragic scene,” Wade said.

After a short pursuit, Callihan was arrested in a wooded area near a house and the 4-year-old’s body was found unburied in the woods behind the home, according to Wade. The other sister was found injured and was taken to a hospital.

“It’s very, very disturbing to me as a police chief and as a father to witness and see what I just saw,” Wade said of the scene.

An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, Wade said Friday.

Due to signs of “some human trafficking done” at the location, Jackson authorities have reached out to human trafficking divisions with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and Hinds County, Wade said.

“We’re going to work this crime scene with a scalpel,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time to process it.”

Many questions still remain, Wade said, including why Callihan allegedly took the children to Jackson and why the child was killed.

Though Callihan had yet to be interviewed Thursday evening, investigators believe the suspect lives in Louisiana and had dated Brunett “off and on,” Travis said. When the Amber Alert was issued Thursday, it said a man, later identified as Callihan, was wanted “for questioning for a domestic violence incident, which occurred at the time of the abduction and resulted in a homicide.”

Investigators’ top priority will be to interview Callihan and care for the surviving 6-year-old victim, Travis said.

“She’s been through something that most of us, hopefully, never ever get to experience. And she is going to have to spend the rest of her life living with this,” the chief said.

Police said Cox was compliant during her arrest and will be held accountable for her actions in the “horrific event.”

“She could be possibly facing capital murder charges along with him or accessory before or after the fact,” Wade said. “We have to bring justice for the loss of this child.”

CNN has reached out to the Jackson Police Department and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office for more information.

A GoFundMe was created “in loving support of the Brunett family in a time of unimaginable suffering” to raise money for funeral costs for Brunett and her 4-year-old daughter, and to help support the family and surviving child navigate the tragedy.

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