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Missing Girl Aspen Jeter Found Alive With Dad Who’s Now Charged With Mom’s Killing
"Aspen is fine, and — she’s okay," Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said following the recovery of the 5-year-old whose mother was found deceased.
A 5-year-old South Carolina girl with disabilities who vanished for several weeks after her mother was found dead in their family’s home on Thanksgiving has been safely located, authorities said.
Aspen Jeter was reported missing on Thanksgiving after police found the decomposing body of her mother, Crystal Jumper, at their Orangeburg, South Carolina home. The gruesome discovery kicked off a weeks-long hunt to locate the child, who was not found at the crime scene and had been living with her mother at the time of her killing.
On Friday, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office announced Jeter was located in Danville, Virginia with her father, 47-year-old Antar Jeter, who was arrested in connection with Jumper’s murder. He was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals on warrants for murder and grand larceny. The father and daughter were located in the parking lot of a hospital, per county authorities. Jeter was allegedly operating a stolen 2015 Mazda 6 at the time of his apprehension.
Aspen’s disappearance had generated nationwide media attention due to the fact that the 5-year-old is non-verbal, has mobility issues and lives with a number of medical conditions. She lives with a rare medical condition called Neurodevelopmental Disorder with or without Autistic Features and/or Structural Brain Abnormalities, according to NBC News, citing the girl’s family.
"Aspen is fine, and — she’s okay," Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell stated at a news conference Friday. "Thank god for that."
Authorities said bank transaction records and ATM withdrawals helped investigators pinpoint Antar Jeter in Danville.
"Aspen will not become a ward of the state,” Jumper family attorney Justin Bamberg said at a news conference following Jeter’s arrest. “We're going to make sure that she's with family.”
Bamberg said the family is now hoping the 5-year-old will be able to stay with relatives in South Carolina.
"It's a joyous moment, but it's a sad moment as well," he added.
A motive in Jumper’s killing hasn’t been released.
Jumper was found fatally shot on her bed on Thanksgiving Day.
Prior to the grisly discovery, her family hadn’t heard from her since Nov. 1. Jumper’s cousin, who requested a welfare check, had alleged Jumper and Jeter had an acrimonious relationship. Investigators said Jeter had lived with Aspen and Jumper at the time as well, although, it’s not entirely clear when Jumper was killed — or how long her corpse had sat undisturbed in her Orangeburg property.
"Sometime before Thanksgiving Day," Ravenell added. "I'm not sure the exact day."
Jumper’s family had desperately pleaded for the child’s safe return in the wake of the South Carolina mother’s death.
“She’s a sweet little baby and we just want her home,” Aspen's uncle, Pauley Jumper, previously told WIS. “She’s not able to walk, she can’t talk. So just everybody pray that we get her home.”
Jeter’s extradition back to South Carolina is pending. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal representation to comment on his behalf. No other information was immediately available regarding the active investigation.