ATLANTA — A 20-year-old maintenance worker who this week pleaded guilty to molesting and killing a 7-year-old girl was found dead of an apparent suicide in his prison cell Thursday, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Ryan Brunn was found unresponsive at 4:15 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, spokeswoman Kristen Stancil said. Brunn was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:37 p.m., she said in an email. She gave no other details about how he died.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents were investigating, said agency spokesman John Bankhead. An autopsy will likely be done Friday at the agency's medical examiner's office in Decatur, he said.
Brunn pleaded guilty on Tuesday to Jorelys Rivera's Dec. 2 killing at a north Georgia apartment complex where she lived and he had worked for about a month.
The girl was reported missing after she left the complex's playground to retrieve sodas at her apartment for her friends. Brunn described in detail to the court how he lured the girl into a vacant apartment and sexually assaulted her. He said he was afraid she would tell her parents so he "cut her." When she didn't die right away, he beat and stabbed her.
Then he put her body in a garbage bag and dumped it in a trash compactor at the complex where it was found.
After his guilty plea, a judge immediately sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Brunn also apologized to the girl's family members, who sobbed in the front row of the courtroom when he graphically described how he killed her.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the girl's mother expressed relief Thursday.
"This is the kind of justice that I was expecting for him for all the damage that he made to my little daughter," Jocelyn Rivera said. "Now, I can say that I feel satisfied."
The news of Brunn's death came the same day that Canton officials announced that its police Chief Jeff Lance had resigned after a scathing report found he took a "laid back" approach to the search for Rivera.
Brunn's defense attorney, David Cannon, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Cherokee County District Attorney Garry Moss also did not immediately return calls.
Lance stepped down after the 17-page review revealed his department of about 50 officers violated several of its own policies and made many mistakes in the search for Rivera, said city manager Scott Wood.
A call to Lance for comment was not immediately returned.
The inquiry said there was little doubt that Rivera was already dead by the time Canton police received the missing child report. But it said if another such report were handled in the same manner, police "may indeed miss an opportunity to save a victim's life."
The review found that the officer who responded to the initial call treated the case as a routine one that "would be solved in the same manner as dozens of other such cases that the agency had handled in 2011."
Local officers arriving to search for Rivera failed to activate their dash-board cameras to record the scene, failed to immediately determine if any sexual predators lived or worked nearby, and didn't report her case to a national registry until almost a day after she went missing, the report said.
The report said Lance didn't arrive at the apartment complex in the town of about 23,000 until around 10:15 a.m. the next morning – about 17 hours after the child was last seen. When he did arrive, it said he was talking to several other officers about the "Georgia game" and eventually turned the TV to a football game.
"Personnel present at the scene frequently characterized the chief's level of concern as `laid back,'" the report said.
Lance failed to launch a separate criminal investigation or heed advice to process Rivera's home as a crime scene, the report said.
Other problems with the investigation surfaced earlier. A Cherokee County deputy who failed to immediately report seeing drops of blood in an apartment during the search for the girl was earlier ordered to undergo additional training. That was not included in the latest report.
Wood, the city manager, said the review should answer questions that were raised about the department's policies and procedures.
"Although sadly the family must still deal with the heartache and loss of this young child, from a legal perspective the matter has now been fully concluded," he said in a statement.