OGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) – A convicted child murderer who was paroled in March faces a murder charge in the death of a 16-year-old girl whose body was found the day after the two left a restaurant where they worked, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Investigators found the body of Stephanie Wagner in a northwestern Indiana field Wednesday night. The suspect, Danny R. Rouse, 51, told them where to look and confessed to killing her, police said.

Rouse, a dishwasher at the restaurant where Wagner was a waitress, was arrested and held without bond. Sheriff’s Detective Tom Wallace testified at a hearing Thursday that Rouse admitted strangling Wagner and then stabbing her. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

Prosecutor Kevin Enyeart said he expected to charge Rouse with murder later Thursday. The court hearing was to continue Friday.

Rouse and Wagner left the Indian Head Restaurant on Tuesday evening, police said. Her mother reported her missing six hours later.

Her body was found late Wednesday about a mile from where police discovered her abandoned car in her hometown of Royal Center, about 50 miles southwest of South Bend.

Police took Rouse in for questioning when he showed up for work Wednesday. He told deputies he was driving along a highway when his vehicle began making funny sounds. He pulled over and Wagner stopped to see if she could help, Wallace said. That is when “a feeling came over him,” he told police.

Rouse had been working at the restaurant for about two weeks, co-owner Heidi Fitousis said. She said she had no idea of Rouse’s criminal past when he was hired.

The restaurant does not normally conduct a background check, “not for a dishwasher,” she said Thursday.

Rouse was released from prison in March after serving more than 26 years for murdering a 5-year-old Kansas boy in 1979. Rouse also was convicted of stabbing of the boy’s mother.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius called for a review of the parole board’s process. “If there is a way to improve the process, we should do it, so Kansans will have confidence that something like this will never happen again,” she said in a statement.

After his release, Rouse moved to Monterey, Ind., where he was living with his brother’s family.

Fitousis described Wagner, who had worked at the restaurant for about a month, as shy and quiet.

“I can’t believe it. I don’t believe it yet,” she said.

Wagner withdrew from high school last year and was being home-schooled, her friend Megan Mannies said Wednesday. Wagner had been pursuing a high school diploma and enjoyed her job at the restaurant, Mannies said.

“She is funny,” Mannies said. “She’s hilarious. She’s my best friend in the whole world.”

AP-ES-11-02-06 1930EST


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