MANSFIELD, OH—Residents of this central Ohio town are reeling from Monday's discovery of the severely burned and mutilated body of a Barbie doll, found buried in a shoebox in the backyard of a local residence.
An as-yet-unnamed 8-year-old girl is being held in connection with the grisly crime.
According to the Richland County Coroner's Office, the nude, 11 1/2" doll, identified as a Butterfly Princess Barbie, was exhumed from its shallow grave at approximately 4 p.m. by the suspect's mother. The Barbie was missing its head and left arm, and had suffered extensive burns on its legs and torso. Teeth marks, tentatively identified as human, were also found on the right leg.
Initial forensics reports indicate that the crime likely occurred three to four weeks ago. Police are still searching the backyard and house for the head.
"I'm in total shock," said Annette Dolmer, 36, a neighbor of the unidentified girl. "[She] always seemed so sweet and quiet. She'd often come over and play with my 7-year-old, and she never behaved unusually. Just a nice, average girl. She's the last person you'd ever think could be capable of something so gruesome."
According to Mansfield police, the suspect has a long history of toy abuse. In May 1995, the then-5-year-old slammed a door on her Slinky dog, severing the coiled wire comprising its midsection. In January 1997, the girl poured a jar of plastic beads into her Easy Bake oven, lodging them inextricably in the oven's workings and effectively destroying the miniature baking device.
"Based on the girl's track record of engaging in destructive and aberrant behavior with regard to her toys," said Mansfield police chief Cedric Hudson, "she would have to be considered the prime suspect in this case."
Hudson would not comment on the possibility that the beheading was a "copycat" crime inspired by a much-publicized incident in nearby Ashland this past April, when a Ken doll was found in a toolshed immersed in a hardened block of wax. Two boys, ages 12 and 13, were arrested in connection with the Ken torture and will stand trial in juvenile court next month.
While the girl is regarded as the prime suspect in the Barbie butchering, her brother is also under suspicion. Like his sister, the 10-year-old boy has a history of toy abuse, setting fire to Hot Wheels cars in his driveway on two separate occasions.
"He really seemed to be taking sadistic glee from burning those cars," said neighbor James Brodhagen, 44, who witnessed the Hot Wheels incidents. "I certainly wouldn't put doll dismemberment past a kid like that."
Mattel, manufacturer of the Barbie doll, released an official statement denouncing the crime Monday. "The Mattel Corporation is stunned and saddened by this appaling act of toy abuse," the statement read. "But we must not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of American girls who own Barbie dolls do so responsibly, cherishing them as the objects of beauty, fantasy and imaginative play that they are."
"I got her one for her birthday last year, thinking she might treat this one better," the suspect's mother told reporters. "By the end of the week, she had lost its shoes, its dress was in tatters, and she'd given it a Mohawk haircut."
"One thing's for sure," the woman added, "that little missy isn't getting another Barbie until she learns to play nice."