Police protect a group of school children from a crush of reporters outside the local elementary school that Mary-Jane attended and block reporters from rushing into the school’s hallways.
Psychologists are counselling shocked students and teachers.
“We have decided to protect the children,” says superintendent Michael Kaufmann. “A tragic and sad event like the death of Mary-Jane must be processed with the highest sensitivity.”
Locals can’t remember the last time Zella-Mehlis, a town of about 11,000 located deep in Thuringia’s forest, was hit by something as traumatizing as this.
Officials say seven-year-old Mary-Jane’s body was found on Saturday about 1.5 kilometres from where she lived with her mother. They believe she was murdered and have released a sketch of a man they are seeking, but have made no arrests.
Dealing with tragedy
Mary-Jane’s memorial service was on Monday. But there will be no closure for locals until her killer is caught. For now, there is a palpable sense of anger.
At a supermarket near Mary-Jane’s home, right-wing extremists hold placards calling for death sentences for child abusers and a few even ply passersby with neo-Nazi propaganda.
But for Mayor Karl-Uwe Panse there is just sadness. In 21 years as mayor of the town, the visibly shaken Panse says he’s never borne witness to such tragedy.
Says Christoph Matschie, a Thuringia state official and father of three girls: “I am very shocked by the crime.”
Outside Mary-Jane’s house, people have left stuffed animals and flowers as a sign of mourning. They worry the killer will never be tracked down.
“I hope they catch him quickly,” says an elderly man.