Friday, March 2, 2001
Section: METRO
Page: B1

By Ralph Montano Bee Staff Writer

--The killer of 12-year-old Courtney Sconce is an attractive, well-mannered and sociable young man whom family and friends might never consider capable of such a crime, a criminal profiler said Thursday.

But beneath the surface is a young man who resorts to violence to resolve personal conflicts, said Sharon Pagaling Hagan, a criminal profiler with the California Department of Justice.

"He has acted violently before the killing, though it might not have been reported to police," Pagaling Hagan said. "And he may resort to violence in the future."

The profiler spoke to reporters during a news conference Thursday at which homicide investigators announced an increased reward of $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the slaying of the Rancho Cordova girl.

"This has been an exhaustive investigation and in four months we have left no stone unturned," said Sutter County Sheriff Jim Denny. "But we have not produced a killer."

Previously, there was a $15,000 reward in the case, but an anonymous contribution of $35,000 has been added, Denny said.

Courtney's body was discovered on a sandy bank of the Feather River in Sutter County just a few hours after she was reported missing from her Rancho Cordova neighborhood on Nov. 8. The girl had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Investigators say Courtney apparently knew her killer and willingly went with him to the river.

Several key pieces of evidence were found at the crime scene, including clothing, DNA and a partial fingerprint. But so far investigators have not been able to match the evidence to anyone.

DNA samples from 52 people have been tested and none has matched, investigators said.

Details in the killer's profile were released in the hope they will lead to the tip that breaks the case.

"If you have the slightest suspicion, you should speak up," said Pagaling Hagan. "You may be the only person to come forward on that person. Don't wait thinking someone else will do it."

Based on evidence and the profile, detectives say they know the following information about the killer:

* He's an attractive white male, 18 to 23 years old with brown or light-colored hair. He is clean and styles his hair. He is between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall with a slender, athletic build.

* He likely lives with others and may be financially dependent on others. He has access to a car, but it may be owned by a family member or close friend.

* He is articulate, friendly and of average intelligence, with good social skills.

* At the time of the crime, he either lived or worked close to the Sconce family's neighborhood. He became acquainted with Courtney in the neighborhood and people may have noticed her talking to him.

It is likely that the killer did not discuss his association with Courtney with people he knows because they would not approve of his interest in a girl so young, officials said.

The killer is also good at keeping secrets and may not have discussed his involvement in Courtney's murder with anyone.

Detectives believe the killer arranged to meet Courtney on the afternoon of the day she was killed. Someone close to him might have noticed that he was absent for several hours that day.

In the days following the killing, people close to the young man would have noticed changes in his behavior, officials said.

He would have remained indoors more, changed his work schedule, avoided sports or been erratic and emotional. He might have avoided using the car he had borrowed in the past and tried following the investigation on the news.

If questioned about his absence on the afternoon of the killing, he would offer an explanation that could not be corroborated, officials said.

Courtney's parents, Mark and Cynthia Sconce, attended Thursday's press conference and made a personal appeal to the public to help them find the killer.

"If you have any knowledge, please come forward," said Mark Sconce. "He could take your daughter next. I don't want that to happen. I want this animal behind bars."

Courtney would have celebrated her 13th birthday on Feb. 11.

On Monday, a tree was planted at Mitchell Middle School in Courtney's honor. The following day, the family agreed to discontinue the street-corner vigil, known as Courtney's Corner, which started the day after she died.

Anyone with information about the slaying of Courtney Sconce is asked to call the Sacramento County sheriff's homicide division at (916) 874-5057.

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