Convicted child killers don’t often agree to such frank interviews with police, and in this case, Brunn gave them a glimpse into the mind of a murderer.
“I’ve never done something like this in my life,” said Brunn, who recounted his thoughts after the murder. “ ‘Am I going to get caught?’ I didn’t think I was. I was going so crazy I left the gloves, I left the ties on the floor.”
The worker gloves and plastic ties were among several pieces of evidence that linked Brunn to the Dec. 2 killing .
That evening, the apartment complex maintenance worker was able to get Jorelys Rivera’s attention as she left a playground to fetch drinks for her friends. Sometime earlier, Brunn noticed the 7-year-old girl had lost a roller skate outside her apartment. He snapped a photo of it and used that image to coax the girl into a vacant unit.
Once there, he molested her, beat her and slit her throat. Investigators found her in a trash bin at the apartment complex.
Brunn was in custody for more than a month before he decided to plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. About an hour after a judge handed down his punishment, Brunn sat in a cramped office and spoke with two Georgia Bureau of Investigations officers.
Two days later, Brunn hanged himself in his prison cell with a gray sweatshirt. Video of the interview was released to the news media this week.
In the interview, the investigators delved into Brunn’s history.
During one exchange, Brunn said it was only after the girl asked to go to the bathroom that he realized he could go to jail if he released her. It was then he decided he had to kill her.
“I know this is hard to say, but I don’t think what happened would have happened if she hadn’t gone to the bathroom,” Brunn said.
Detailed interviews of the kind investigators conducted with Brunn can reveal patterns of behavior before, during and after a crime, said Bob Ingram, a retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent who has conducted dozens of such interrogations.
“You can read books and you can study cases, but I think the true learning takes place when you interview the offenders after the fact,” said Ingram, who teaches law enforcement interviewing techniques.
GBI Special Agent Dustin Hamby, who helped interview the 20-year-old Brunn, said he learned that young suspects should be confronted early with physical evidence to elicit a confession more quickly.
“He told us that he had resolved himself to not tell the truth, but had we put a picture or the gloves that we found at the scene that he left, that he potentially would have confessed at that point or admitted that he was involved,” Hamby said.
The investigators offered their own theories when Brunn wouldn’t divulge details. During one exchange, the agents pressed Brunn repeatedly on how Jorleys got deep cuts on her face and chest.
“It’s either you hesitating to try to get the courage up to cut her throat or you’re trying to get her to do what you want her to do or it’s just plain out torture,” Hamby said. “It’s one of the three, and I don’t know which one it is, and that’s why I want to know.”
Brunn insisted that he wasn’t responsible for those injuries.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “I already went to court. But I don’t know how that happened.”
At times, he professed to be confused by his actions. He said he didn’t know why he singled out Rivera, though he acknowledged watching her at the bus stop and being attracted to Hispanic girls. On the other hand, he sometimes had a clearer recollection, such as his insistence that he didn’t have sex with the child, although he said he initially planned to do so.
Interviewing a suspect, or even a convicted killer, can be a mental game, and officers are not sure whether the person is bragging or lying.
“They don’t want to tell you, but their ego sometimes overrides that. They want to say something that lets you know they’re extremely clever,” said Ingram, the retired GBI agent. “They don’t want to get themselves in trouble but they want to get credit for what they’ve done.”
Associated Press writer Kate Brumback in Canton contributed to this report.