05/07/07 — Details released on child's murder

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Details released on child's murder

By Lee Williams
Published in News on May 7, 2007 1:53 PM

Officials from the State Medical Examiner's Office in Greenville reported suffocation is how 7-year-old Chasity Sumner died in late April.

Chasity's small body was found in a ditch in a wooded area on April 28 about nine hours after her grandmother, Rose Sumner, reported her missing from their home on Leighton Drive in Pink Hill.

Lenoir County sheriff's deputies responded to a call for help at about 1 a.m. after Ms. Sumner noticed the child was missing.

Members of the sheriff's office, Highway Patrol, Lenoir County Emergency Management, North Carolina Bureau of Investigation and Pink Hill Police Department went door-to-door with search dogs, looking for the girl, but the dark sky impeded their quest.

Nine hours later, they found the child.

During an investigation, officials discovered Chasity had been kidnapped from her home, sexually assaulted and then smothered to death.

John Alan Manning, 37, a man who lived in Chasity's home is being held in connection with her death. Manning faces charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree murder. He is being held at the Lenoir County Jail without bond.

Family members say there was a family connection between the two, but they were not related by blood.

It's also uncertain if the Lenoir County District Attorney will seek the death penalty in the case.

Lenoir County District Attorney Branny Vickory was unavailable for comment on Monday. However, in an earlier interview, Vickory said he spent several hours working on the case and added it deeply troubled him.

Lettie Sumner, Chasity's 77-year-old great-grandmother, said she, too, was upset by the incident.

"I think it was terrible," she said.

Ms. Sumner said Chasity will be sorely missed.

She said Chasity would come to see her every evening on her bicycle. She described the 7-year-old as a quiet little girl.

"She was kind of shy," she said.

Ms. Sumner said she also has no doubt that they have the right man in custody.

Officials said a party occurred at the house on the night before Chasity was abducted, but they were unsure if it played a role in the incident.