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Ron Word, Published October 21 2009

Investigators baffled by missing Florida girl case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Investigators have no clues three days after a 7-year-old girl vanished on her way home from school, a sheriff in north Florida said Wednesday.

The mother of Somer Thompson went on all three national network morning news shows with a tearful appeal for the child's return.

``Somer, you're not in trouble - if you're scared, just come home,' Diena Thompson said on NBC's ``Today' show Wednesday. ``And if somebody has her, please, please bring her back to us. She belongs with her family.'

``She's got a twin and he's lost without her,' Thompson said in a later news conference.

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said investigators are baffled.

``Somer disappeared off the face of the earth. We just don't have a clue right now where she is,' Beseler said.

He said officers have expanded the initial search area and interviewed about 75 known sex offenders in a five-square-mile radius. Teams of volunteers are walking arm-to-arm through the woods, and deputies are using helicopters and search dogs.

``We just really need a break in this case. We need a tip, we need a phone call,' Beseler said. ``Somebody knows where Somer is, and we need that person to call us.'

Investigators have said they suspect foul play.

``The likelihood she has been taken by someone is high,' the sheriff said.

The girl vanished on her mile-long walk home from school Monday in Orange Park, near Jacksonville.

Thompson said Somer was squabbling with another child, and her sister told her to stop. The girl got upset, walked ahead of the group and wasn't seen again.

Orange Park is a suburb of Jacksonville just south of Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The area where the girl disappeared is a heavily populated residential area with homes, apartment complexes and condominums. There are wooded areas and retention ponds.

Orange Park is also about 50 miles north of Satsuma, where Haleigh Cummings disappeared in February. She has not been found.

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