In December of 2011, police in Fort Wayne, Indiana, were alerted to a missing child with physical and emotional problems: nine-year-old Aliahna Lemmon. According to Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, Aliahna and her two sisters had been left at the home of a family friend and they had been there for around a week. Aliahna’s mother, Tarah Souers, had been recovering from the flu and had entrusted a family friend to care for her three children in his mobile home.
The family friend was 39-year-old Michael Plumadore. He had met Aliahna’s grandfather, James Lemmon, when they were both serving time in jail for sex crimes. Just a couple of months before Aliahna went missing, Plumadore had posted a photograph of her and her two younger sisters on his Facebook profile, referring to them as his “three little princesses.”
According to Plumadore, he had last seen Aliahna at around 6AM at his mobile home on the 22nd of December. He then left to go to a gas station around a mile away to purchase a cigar. Surveillance footage at the gas station would confirm that Plumadore had been there. “I had deadbolted the door,” he said. “When I got back, all the girls was here.”1 Plumadore smoked his cigar and then went back to sleep until around 10AM. He said that when he awoke, he saw a pile of her clothing by a chair where Aliahna had fallen asleep the night beforehand but she was nowhere to be seen.
Police would state that they believed that Aliahna vanished from the home at some point between these four hours. They also stated that miscommunication between Plumadore and Tarah resulted in Aliahna not being reported missing until 8:45PM that night. According to Tarah, Aliahna had a history of sleepwalking and she had feared that she had wandered out of the mobile home while asleep.
A search party was assembled and missing person fliers were printed and distributed throughout the area. They described Aliahna as having blonde hair and freckles, standing at around 4 feet 4 inches tall and weighing around 40 pounds. Police wouldn’t issue an Amber Alert, stating that there was no evidence that she had been abducted.2
After two days passed and there was still no sign of Aliahna, the FBI were called in to assist in the search. The mobile home park where she had vanished from was known as a haven for registered sex offenders. In a tragic coincidence, Aliahna herself had been the victim of a sexual assault when she was seven-years-old. Despite this, her mother had left her in the care of a known sex offender.3
Plumadore and Aliahna’s family would sit down with the media to speak about the disappearance in a bid to generate interest. As they discussed her disappearance, Plumadore held up a small drawing Aliahna had made on a piece of paper. It was a heart with the words: “I love u Miek.” Plumadore said that Aliahna had told him: “That’s one way I spell your name.” He said that the night before Aliahna vanished, she had been having nightmares and said that she wanted to go home. He said that he explained to her: “Honey, you know it’s 2, 2:30 in the morning. We’ll get with mommy in the morning.”4
Just the following day, it was announced that Aliahna had been found dead and Plumadore had been arrested and charged with her murder. It would be uncovered that Plumadore had bludgeoned Aliahna to death with a brick and then dismembered her. He had hidden her decapitated head in his freezer along with her hands and feet and then disposed of the rest of her remains nearby.5
Following Plumadore’s arrest, he made a full confession to the murder and he spared none of the grisly details. He told investigators that Aliahna was standing on his front porch when he came up behind her and smacked her over the head with a brick and continued to do so until she was dead. He said that after she died, he placed her body into trash bags and stuffed her into the freezer. The following day, he used a hacksaw to dismember her body and would lead investigators to a nearby dumpster where he had hidden most of her remains.6
Early the following year, hundreds of people turned out for the memorial for Aliahna, which was held at the First Assembly of God. During the service, she was fondly remembered by her loved ones. J. Michael Caywood, the principal at Holland Elementary School where Aliahna was a pupil, said that she was “a friend to everyone, happy, smiling, she never held a grudge.” At the front of the church, a large photograph of Aliahna was flanked by a tie-dyed t-shirt which was decorated with written messages to her.7
In May of 2012, Plumadore pleaded guilty to the murder of Aliahna. He said to Superior Court Judge John Surbeck: “I repeatedly struck her in the head with a brick. She died… I cut Aliahna Lemmon up with a hacksaw and put the parts in a freezer. I then took the rest down to the Marathon station and put them in a dumpster.” In pleading guilty, Plumadore saved himself a death sentence. He was sentenced instead to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He never revealed a motivation for the grisly murder.
- Associated Press, 26 December, 2011 – “FBI Joins Search for Missing Indiana Girl”
- Associated Press, 24 December, 2011 – “Search Launched for 9-Year-Old Girl in Fort Wayne”
- News & Politics Examiner, 31 December, 2011 – “Slain Girl Aliahna Lemmon Sexually Assaulted at Age of 7”
- News & Politics Examiner, 2 January, 2012 – “Plumadore Says He’s No Angel”
- St. Paul Pioneer Press, 26 December, 2011 – “Baby Sitter Beat, Dismembered Indiana Girl”
- News & Politics Examiner, 30 December, 2011 – “Prosecutors Charge Male Babysitter, 39, in Brutal Slaying”
- The News-Sentinel, 6 January, 2012 – “Hundreds Attend Memorial”