The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office found 13-year-old Delia Young’s body on Wednesday, June 2 after she had been reported missing on May 16.
Her legal guardian, Marian Williams, 57, was arrested May 26 and her aunt, Valerie Young, 52, was arrested May 27 as suspects in the case of Delia’s disappearance.
A week after the arrests, ACSO executed a search operation around 7 a.m. Wednesday, June 2. ACSO spokesperson Kaley Behl said human remains were found in Northwest Alachua at about 5 p.m.
On June 4, the medical examiner's office confirmed they were the remains of Delia. Detectives will continue to work with medical examiners to determine a cause of death.
Valerie Young reported Delia missing on May 16 at 10:49 a.m., according to the arrest report. Valerie Young said Delia had disappeared the night before and said Delia had a history of running away.
ACSO tweeted about Delia’s absence May 19, urging community members to call the ACSO communications center with any information about her whereabouts.
Williams confessed to being involved with Delia’s disappearance after going to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office on May 26.
Williams told detectives she was in her home the day before Delia was found dead when she witnessed Valerie Young beating Delia with an electrical cord.
Behl said it is unclear why Valerie Young was beating Delia.
Williams said Valerie Young stopped after Williams asked her to, but later that evening, Delia was limping and had large welts on her legs. Williams said she asked Delia if she wanted to go to the hospital, but she refused.
Williams said she last saw Delia alive on the floor of her bedroom using a computer.
On May 17 around 7 a.m., Williams said she discovered Delia dead on the floor of her bedroom. She said she called Valerie Young, who was not at the home, in a panic and the two discussed where they would hide Delia’s body.
Williams said they both believe the death was a result of the beating she endured from Valerie Young.
Williams said they put Delia’s body in a pink tote and put it in a bedroom at a house Williams owns located at 21830 NW 47th Terrace in Lacrosse, Florida.
On May 18, Williams said she returned to the home in Lacrosse and discovered the tote outside the house. Delia’s body was not inside, and Williams said she burned the tote.
Williams was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, neglect of a child with great bodily harm, and obstruction and destruction of evidence. Valerie Young was charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated child abuse, evidence tampering and depriving Delia of medical care.
Williams’ mother told detectives she heard rumors about Delia suffering beatings, but she had not seen any injuries.
In an ACSO press release, Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. expressed his appreciation for the deputies who worked on the case and the support from the community.
Maria Papallo, 56, was not connected to the case but said it felt personal to her as a daycare owner who worked with children for over 37 years.
“It bothers me a lot,” she said. “These poor little innocent children are in this world getting hurt, and when it’s too late, that’s when we know.”
Papallo also advocates for the Florida Department of Children and Families to investigate guardians on their background more often.
“Just because a child is related to someone by blood, it doesn’t mean they’re in good hands,” Papallo said. “As professionals in daycare, our backgrounds are looked at. I’m not sure to what extent their backgrounds are looked at, but I feel like they really need to look further into who they give these children to.”
Contact Jake Reyes at jreyes@alligator. Follow him on Twitter @frlJakeReyes.
This article has been updated with new information.