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Ex-Neighbor Confesses to Strangling Girl Missing Since 1994

August 10, 1996

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A former neighbor confessed to abducting and strangling a 4-year-old girl who vanished more than two years ago while riding her Big Wheel on a quiet suburban sidewalk, authorities said.

Hours after security guard Mark Christie was charged with second-degree murder Friday night, police found a body early today thought to be the remains of Kali Poulton.

Christie, 24, who lived with his infant son not far from Kali’s home in a secluded subdivision in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, confessed to the crime, police said.

Kali’s disappearance in May 1994 mystified police and prompted a nationwide search. At the time, authorities said all 300 residents in the housing estate were interviewed at least once but no suspects were identified.

Monroe County Sheriff Andrew Meloni said a tip led to Friday’s arrest of Christie, who had since moved to a small town east of Rochester. He said Christie confessed to abducting and killing the girl and told police where he disposed of the body.

Police said they found a body when they emptied a water tank in a Northern Telecommunications building on Rochester’s east side where Christie worked. An autopsy was to be performed today.

Christie was arraigned Friday night in Pittsford Town Court and was being held in the Monroe County Jail.

Kali’s mother, Judy Gifford, said she remembered talking casually to Christie at a local playground in the months before Kali disappeared and becoming suspicious when he made admiring comments about her daughter. Kali used to help Christie’s 18-month-old son on the slide, she said.

``He would say, `Your daughter’s a very precious little girl’ and I’d say `Thank you.′ We were accustomed to hearing that.

``But then he’d make comments like, `I look at all the little girls out here and your daughter is far the prettiest.′ That made me feel uncomfortable and when I’d see him outside (again), I’d not be near him.

``Here was a man in his 20s admiring a 4-year-old child. That’s not right.″

It was around dinnertime on May 23, 1994, when Kali got her pink-and-white Big Wheel out of the shed. She rode back and forth on the sidewalk, her mother glimpsing her periodically through the window. When Gifford came out a few minutes later, Kali and her tricycle had vanished.

Gifford, 32, has passed out posters at toll booths and county fairs, consulted psychics, appeared on talk shows, persuaded airlines to stuff Kali’s picture in ticket jackets and pediatricians to keep missing children albums.

All over metropolitan Rochester on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, the photo of the little girl with dimples and waist-length blond hair was displayed on car windows, office walls and storefronts.

Every year in America, an estimated 300 children are kidnapped by strangers. As many as half of them are killed.

``This certainly comes as a shock,″ Gifford said. ``I always felt that she was alive and I was going to find her and bring her home.

Sobbing in her doorway next to her former husband, David Poulton, she added: ``We are totally devastated, in shock, as totally blindsided by this as we were the day she disappeared.″

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