Almost 19 years after Brittney Beers disappeared, the Sturgis Police Department developed its first "significant lead" after a killer's confession.
Jodi Parrack's convicted killer, 65-year-old Daniel Furlong, admitted to strangling the girl in 2007 then "dumping" her body in a Constantine cemetery.
The similarities in the two cases were raising "red flags" according to Sturgis Police Chief Geoff Smith, who was a responding officer the night Brittney disappeared.
"There are only two things that make him a person of interest," said Smith. "One, he's capable. Two, he looks like the composite of the person Brittney was possibly last seen talking to."
Beers was 6-years-old when she was last seen outside the Village Manor Apartments in 1997.
"We've never been able to move on," said Christine Simpson, Brittney's relative. "We've always wondered where, how, who."
Beers was left by herself that day in Sturgis. Her mother was at the store and someone last saw her near a bench.
A witness also told police she was last seen talking to a man. Police used witness descriptions to draw a composite that they released to the public many years ago.
It was that composite that gave new hope to Brittney's case.
"When I saw the picture of Mr. Furlong, I thought of our composite and how much it resembled the composite," said Smith.
A composite image, Smith said, is not a "finite detail" but it could be after 19 years of questions.
Furlong was ultimately convicted of 2nddegree murder after he tried to lure a 10-year-old girl in his White Pigeon garage in the summer of 2015.
That girl got away.
Police took his DNA and it came up as a match to blood and saliva found on Parrack's body and clothing.
"When we first heard of that, flags start to go up," said Smith. "Anytime anyone is capable of doing those types of things to a child, to us, they're a possible suspect or person of interest."
Sturgis detectives had closed out nearly 95 percent of tips that have come in since 1997. Smith said there are a few other "persons of interest" besides Furlong.
"It doesn't matter what we do," said Smith. "Until we solve this, I don't think we can eliminate them."
Smith chose not to name the other suspects because the Beers' case is an open investigation. He said the only reason he chose to speak about Furlong was because of heightened awareness as a result of the Parrack case.
Other Beers' family members around the area at the time of Brittney's disappearance had allegations of child abuse against them, Smith said. He could not say if charges ever came about.
As part of Furlong's plea deal, he was interrogated by Michigan State Police detectives and others about the Parrack and Beers' case.
In the hours-long interrogation, Furlong said he did not kill Beers.
"I'm not sure if he can tell the truth about anything let alone if he was guilty of something," said Smith. "It's back to gut feeling."
Smith described Furlong's demeanor as "cold" and "un-remorseful" as he confessed to the gruesome details of Parrack's murder, while eating pizza and drinking coffee.
"We know what he did to Jodi Parrack, then several years later he basically tried to do the same thing again," said Smith. "What's to say he didn't do it before?"
If you know anything about the disappearance of Brittney Beers, you're asked to contact the Sturgis Police Department at 269-651-3231 or the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.
Read more about the Jodi Parrack case here: http://bit.ly/1QIE0qGView This Story on Our Site