Metro-East News

Olney residents ‘want to know if they’re safe’ after killing of 8-year-old girl

Sabrina Stauffenberg
Sabrina Stauffenberg

Residents of Olney remained on edge Saturday as police continued to investigate the killing of an 8-year-old girl.

The body of Sabrina Stauffenberg was found Wednesday night near a vinegar plant in Olney. She had been waiting on the porch of her home for a bus ride to a church service, according to Denise Haley, who is a friend of Sabrina’s family and resides a few houses away.

“People are sad, they’re emotional, they want to know if they’re safe,” Haley said Saturday. “The police are not releasing any information whatsoever — if they have somebody, if they don’t have somebody. Most of us in the neighborhood have kids, and all we’re told is, ‘Don’t let your kids be out playing right now.’”

Police on Saturday said they had no updates to release on the investigation.

Illinois State Police issued a brief news release on Thanksgiving Day, saying the Olney Police Department had responded Wednesday night to a report of a missing 8-year-old girl, and that her body was later found behind a building on the south side of Olney.

State Police termed her death a homicide and said the Southern Illinois Child Death Task Force was activated to investigate.

Haley said Sabrina resided with an aunt on Whittle Avenue. The aunt was home at the time and didn’t hear anything, so Haley suspects the girl was lured away.

“She was standing on her front porch, waiting for the church bus. She was on the phone with her grandma at the time,” Haley said. “She was telling her grandma that the church bus hadn’t come yet.”

The grandmother called the church to find out why the bus was late. Minutes later, when the grandmother tried to call Sabrina again, there was no answer, according to Haley.

Haley said Sabrina was a third-grader at Richland County Elementary School.

“She loved to play outside. She just learned how to ride a bike, so she loved riding her bike. She loved animals,” Haley said. “She was just a very loving little girl. She trusted everybody.”

Haley said searchers found Sabrina’s body by locating her cell phone.

Haley has set up a GoFundMe page to cover funeral and burial expenses and other costs. As of Saturday morning, it had raised $3,460.

“I believe it has reached almost a thousand shares on Facebook,” Haley said. “People who don’t even know her — people from other states — have donated.”

Andrew Thomann, the principal at Richland County Elementary, said the school would have counselors on hand Monday to help students.

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