18-year-old charged in murder of 5-year-old niece, cause of death was blunt force trauma with scythe

Judge sets his bond at $500K

JACKSON TWP, Ohio - An 18-year-old man appeared in court for the first time Tuesday on allegations that he killed his 5-year-old niece with a scythe in Highland County over the weekend.

Highland County officials said they found 5-year-old Jada Beth Williams dead in the garage of a residence located on Flat Run Road in Jackson Township at about 12:45 p.m. Sunday. On Monday, officials announced Williams' 18-year-old uncle, Matthew Pierson, was charged with her murder.

During Tuesday's hearing, a judge set Pierson's bond at $500,000 and scheduled his next court hearing for Aug. 23.

Williams died of multiple blunt force trauma to her head, face and neck according to preliminary autopsy findings obtained by 9 News. The autopsy also did not find any signs of sexual assault, but additional forensic testing is still being completed.

During the initial search of the home after the body was found, detectives recovered what they believe to be the murder weapon, a scythe, or hand instrument used in the cutting of high grass or weeds.

Detective Randy Sanders stated in an affidavit that Pierson admitted to killing Williams inside the house on Flat Run Road on Saturday, Aug. 11.

"She did have visible trauma about her body and we believe and evidence has indicated her death was a criminal act," said Highland County Sheriff Ron Ward at a press conference Monday.

Authorities responded to the scene Sunday afternoon after the girl's grandmother found her unresponsive in the garage and called 911. In a portion of the call, the grandmother says, "My granddaughter is dead. I just come home. She was here with the guy I live with and my grandson and she is dead."

Officials held a 38-year-old male as a person of interest Sunday, but they have not said if that person is still in police custody. Officials have not released that man's name at this time.

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office in Dayton performed the autopsy on Williams Monday.

The Highland County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.

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