Sheriff: Suspect admits slaying
It was early Saturday morning, sometime around sunrise, when he saw the little girl outside. Shortly after that, he delivered the fatal blows, viciously striking her neck twice with a knife, then piercing her another two times in the stomach, apparently behind an abandoned fourplex just a few doors down from her mother’s home in Harvey.
That was the account that Matthew Flugence gave investigators during an “extensive” interview regarding the gruesome murder of 6-year-old Ahlittia North that began late Tuesday night and continued well into Wednesday morning, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Flugence is the nephew of Ahlittia’s stepfather, Albert Hill, and was well known to the girl.
Ahlittia’s body was found late Monday stuffed inside of a trash can on the curb in the 2800 block of Destrehan Avenue in Harvey, in front of the vacant apartments where she likely was killed.
Flugence, 20, was arrested in the 900 block of Victory Drive in Westwego late Tuesday after the Sheriff’s Office began to receive calls that a man who matched his description was wandering the streets there.
Normand said Flugence — whose face was broadcast for two days on every newscast, published in newspapers and posted online — was bold enough to ask at least one person for money since he was trying to run from the authorities.
A short time later, however, a Sheriff’s Office deputy and two Westwego police officers took him into custody without incident.
The officers found a knife on him, which Flugence said was the weapon he used to stab Ahlittia, the sheriff said.
Early Wednesday, Normand declined to discuss Flugence’s demeanor during the interview with detectives, but pointed out the foul response he gave to reporters who asked him if he killed Ahlittia as he was being escorted to jail.
Russell Flugence, Matthew’s brother, also was arrested for obstruction of justice in the case. When investigators asked him what he knew about Ahlittia’s disappearance, Russell Flugence, 21, reportedly replied that he didn’t care about the girl.
“That’ll give you a little bit of the flavor of the two individuals we are dealing with,” Normand said.
Ahlittia was last seen late Friday night in her bed inside her mother’s home in the 2900 block of Destrehan Avenue. Her mom and stepfather awoke Saturday to find her missing. Also gone was her blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste. There was no sign of forced entry to the home. Family members have said it would have been hard for the girl to open the door on her own since even adults had trouble with it at times. Flugence’s account, though, was that he found Ahlittia outside by herself.
“We’re not sure if she was lured. His story is in the very early morning hours — I think his exact words were ‘around sunrise’ — he happened to see her out and about and that he was out and about walking through the neighborhood in that point in time,” Normand said.
While some deputies searched the Woodmere neighborhood for Ahlittia, others worked behind the scenes on DNA tests to try to determine if a pool of blood found behind the abandoned fourplex might be hers. Search of the structure, the neighborhood — even the garbage can in which she’d later surface — left them empty-handed.
The Sheriff’s Office on Monday named Matthew Flugence a person of interest in the disappearance of Ahlittia. Police have said he previously baby sat the girl and her siblings.
Interviews with several people, including Russell Flugence, as well as an outstanding warrant for the alleged sexual battery of an 11-year-old Harvey girl in late April or early May, led detectives to believe Matthew Flugence might have information about her disappearance.
He was named a suspect on Tuesday.
Normand declined to say if Ahlittia was sexually assaulted. The sheriff also declined to say if Flugence might also be responsible for other sexual batteries against minors, in addition to the one for which he was wanted, but said that is being looked into.
“We are going to continue to run that out and make sure that if there are any other victims we are able to bring that to some conclusion as well,” Normand said.
It remains uncertain where Ahlittia’s body might have been kept in between the time she was killed and when she was discovered or if there were any other people who might have helped hide Flugence. Normand declined to address those questions.
“This particular case continues. We still have a lot of loose ends to tie up,” Normand said. “But obviously this is a major milestone.”
Matthew Flugence is being held without bail on one count of first-degree murder and an outstanding warrant for the unrelated sexual battery case. Bail was set at $50,000 for the sexual battery charge. His brother, Russell Flugence, is being held on a $250,000 bond for obstructing justice.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Ahlittia.