Nearly six months after Valerie Tindall vanished, the Indiana teenager’s remains were found stuffed in a box and buried on property owned by her neighbour who has allegedly admitted to strangling her with his belt, newly released court documents revealed.
Patrick Scott, 59, continued to wear that same belt in the days and weeks after the killing of the 17-year-old that allegedly happened inside his Indiana home on 7 June.
“I put it around her neck and I held onto it until she quit,” Mr Scott allegedly told investigators after he was arrested on Tuesday, according to the documents obtained by WTTV.
Mr Scott claimed he hadn’t planned to kill Valerie and that it “just kind of happened.” He said it happened when he thought the teenager was going to seduce him or try to blackmail him into buying her a new car, according to the documents.
He was charged with murder and booked into Rush County Jail after Valerie’s body was discovered. Investigators have not clarified whether new evidence or tips led them to Mr Scott’s property.
Valerie’s cause of death has yet to be determined, but her remains were positively identified by the coroner on Thursday.
She had worked for Mr Scott, who owns a lawn-mowing business. Court documents indicate that she told her parents on 7 June that she was going to work.
Mr Scott told police that later the same day he drove Valerie back to his home in Arlington, a rural community about 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
Her mother, Shena Sandefur, told WRTV-TV the family had trusted Mr Scott.
“She and him had a bond. They were friends,” Ms Sandefur said. “She worked for him, but she also hung out with his family. His granddaughter was her friend, and we went places with them.”
Several searches were launched after Valerie was reported missing, including on 11 October when cadaver-sniffing dogs located the smell of decomposition in a pond near Mr Scott’s property. However, a search of the pond failed to turn up anything, the court documents state.
A flyover was conducted on 12 October during which police noted “multiple areas of obvious ground disturbance.”
Search warrants in hand, nearly 40 federal agents and local law enforcement officers descended on his property on 28 November where they found a large dirt pile.
They uncovered a homemade box and immediately noted the smell of decomposition despite being wrapped in a tarp with duct tape used on the seams. Human remains were found inside.
An officer on the scene described “instantly” spotting orange fingernails on the body that matched the color of Valerie’s nails as seen in a photo posted to social media on 7 June – the day she disappeared.
According to court documents, Mr Scott had purchased 2x4s and the oriented strand boards to make the boxes at the Home Depot in Greenfield the day after Valerie vanished.
He later allegedly admitted to police that he bought the boards to make the box for her body, which had been in his office.
The married man said his wife and daughter “don’t know nothing” about the killing.
The teenager’s distraught mother told FOX 59 that she had moved from Indianapolis to rural Arlington to get away from violence in the city.
“But we moved across the street from her predator,” she said, adding that Mr Scott acted like a “jealous boyfriend” and even tracked her daughter’s phone.
"She worked hard to get her grades up, she was gonna go to college, she was accepted and now she’ll never have the chance," Ms Sandefur said. "I wanted to get her help and she wouldn’t and I think [Scott] took advantage of that."
Valerie would have turned 18 on 29 August.
“I’m doing my best to not have any hate in my heart, but I just don’t think it’s possible. How could someone take away such a beautiful soul?” Valerie’s aunt, Precious Miniard, wrote on social media.
In a statement released following the coroner’s findings, the Rush County Sheriff’s Office said that it offered its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of Valerie Tindall during this time of mourning.”
A judge ordered Mr Scott to be held without bond at the Rush County Jail and appointed a public defender to represent him during his initial hearing.