Authorities charged a central Missouri man with first-degree murder after a 13-year-old girl who had been reported missing was found dead on an unoccupied farm.
Steven Neal Henderson, 30, of Iberia was charged in the Saturday stabbing death of Macala Shelton, according to court records released Monday.
Authorities said Henderson lived at the same address as the teenager. A probable cause statement by the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Henderson acknowledged killing the girl with a large survival knife and told authorities where to find the weapon.
Miller County Sheriff William M. “Bill” Abbott said during a news conference Monday he did not have information about the possible motive and could not discuss details of Henderson’s statement. “If we didn’t have enough to charge for murder-one, we wouldn’t,” he said.
The Miller County sheriff’s office said Sunday that Macala’s body was found in a wooded area on an unoccupied farm. The first-degree murder charge against Henderson also was dated Sunday.
Abbott told reporters on Monday the teen’s body was found several miles from her home. He said Henderson led authorities in the direction but did not lead them to the body. He described Henderson as the brother of Macala’s step-father.
The sheriff’s office said authorities had interviewed family members and friends about Macala’s whereabouts after a door-to-door search with help from the Iberia Volunteer Fire Department and residents. Abbott said the way Henderson answered a few questions and his actions had concerned investigators.
Abbott said he is awaiting results from an autopsy and that the investigation is continuing. The sheriff’s office said no additional charges currently are expected.
No one answered a phone call Monday at a number listed as Henderson’s address. Henderson, who is being held in the Miller County jail, filed an application Monday to be represented by a public defender but one had not yet been assigned, according to online court records. The Miller County Sheriff’s Office said Henderson was being held on a $500,000 bond.
An endangered person advisory described Macala as 5-feet 1-inch with brown hair and eyes and back-framed glasses. She was seen going to bed Friday before midnight and was not in her room when her grandmother went to wake her Saturday.
Iberia, which has a little more than 700 residents, is about 45 miles south of Jefferson City in a largely rural area. Abbott spoke to reporters at the Miller County Sheriff’s Office in Tuscumbia.
Betty Cochran, a neighbor who had interacted with the family, said Macala moved to Iberia this past school year with her stepfather and siblings after her mother was deployed by the military. They lived with the stepfather’s parents and his siblings, she said.
Macala played softball and liked to read, Cochran said.
“They’ve been good neighbors, they’re friendly people. And them kids, I just love them all,” Cochran said. “It sure has been a thing for me to swallow. It’s been a hard thing for me to take.”
Abbott said he plans to meet with Macala’s mother and father on Tuesday.
A probable cause statement written by a Miller County sheriff’s detective said more than 20 firearms were found during a search of the residence where the family lived.