Late the evening of Feb. 8, Jason Shackelford, 39, was watching a movie in bed with the girl, Elaina Smith, while her mother was at work, the Columbia Borough Police Department said.
Sometime during the night, police said, Shackelford admitted he raped the girl and then strangled her to death.
After allegedly committing the murder, police said, Shackelford drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes for hours and took the child's body into the basement and put it into a chest freezer.
On Feb. 10, East Lampeter Township police responded to a domestic incident involving Elaina’s mother and Shackelford. The woman told police that Shackelford was “involved in having her (daughter) kidnapped and removed from her custody” while she was at work, police said.
According to police, the woman said Shackelford raped her on Feb. 9 and then forced her to go with him to an area hotel, getting her to cooperate "by using (Elaina’s) wellbeing as leverage.”
At the hotel, Shackelford raped her again, the woman alleged to police. He then let the woman leave the room to smoke a cigarette, which is when she went to the front desk and asked hotel staff to call authorities, police said.
Police obtained a warrant to search the home and they found Elaina's body in the freezer.
“We don’t want people to remember her by the terrible thing that happened to her. We want people to remember her (as) the strong, beautiful, caring, intelligent and just life-filled little girl," Sheriece Smith, the young victim's aunt, told Lancaster Online, "She made everyone better for knowing and loving her.”
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Shackelford and Elaina’s mother have a long history of violence, and he was on Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law list for sexually assaulting the woman in December 2019, Lancaster Online reported.
In Aug. 2021, Shackelford was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault, terroristic threats and a firearms violation.
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Elaina’s former step-grandfather David Rowley told Lancaster Online: “Jason had been in this house quite a few times for barbecues and stuff like that. He was very polite, friendly, laughable. ... I had no idea the monster that he was. I had no idea. And that’s the scary thing about these kinds of people. They know how to fit into our society.”
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