Gabriella Doolin was watching her brother play at Scottsville High School, where several little league teams had gathered for an all-star match. Around 7:40 p.m., her mother noticed she was missing and notified police, authorities say.
The games immediately stopped, and parents ditched the field to find the little girl. But hope turned to heartbreak when her body was discovered at 8:05 p.m., in a creek in a wooded area behind the school, cops say.
“It happened real quick,” Kentucky State Police trooper B.J. Eaton told The Daily Beast of the chaotic scene. “As soon as it was noticed she was missing, it was reported [to police], and as soon as it was reported, people started looking.”
“Any information we receive we’re following up on,” he added. “We haven’t narrowed it down to one suspect.”
Eaton said the Louisville medical examiner performed an autopsy to determine a cause of death. Cops did not release the results Sunday night.
Still, authorities said they were treating the case as a homicide due to the state in which the child was found and evidence at the scene, NewsChannel 5 in Nashville reported.
The heinous crime has stunned Scottsville, a town of 4,336 about 60 miles northeast of Nashville. On Sunday evening, residents and parents of peewee teams gathered at a candlelight vigil for Gabriella, also known as Gabby, as investigators continued combing the grassy area where she died.
The girl’s father, Brian Doolin, shared a heart-rending post on Facebook earlier Sunday, saying he would have “gladly traded places with my baby girl.”
“I’d give anything to hold my baby girl just one more time,” Doolin wrote. “I love her with all my heart… I don’t know why anyone would do this to a baby or anyone for that matter!”
Doolin, a beloved car salesman in Bowling Green, shared many online pictures of his beautiful family—now shattered by senseless tragedy. One friend said on social media, “His children and family are his whole world.”
Others who were at the game Saturday also expressed their grief.
“To say that I am heartbroken tonight would be an understatement,” one parent wrote on Facebook shortly after Gabby was found. “As so many of us frantically searched for this sweet girl, we only imagined she would be found and safely placed back in her mother’s arms… we never imagined the events that were about to unfold.”
Another mother struggled to understand how no one noticed what was happening at the crowded game.
“We were having a great time… when only a couple hundred feet away Gabby spent her last moments in a very bad place,” the mom wrote on Facebook. “So many questions like how could no one know, see or hear what was happening.”
“So many kids were there and this monster was among them all,” she added.
The little league football season had just ended, and teams from other counties were in Scottsville for a series of all-star games that started in the morning. Gabby’s older brother plays for the Cowboys, one parent, Angel Carter, told The Daily Beast.
This was Gabby’s first year as a cheerleader for her brother’s team, according to Carter, who coaches the Cowboys cheer squad. Their group, however, wasn’t in uniform Saturday for the post-season jamboree.
“She was the sweetest little angel,” Carter told The Daily Beast. “She had the biggest blue eyes and blondest hair, she was full of life and funny. It’s not going to be the same when we gather and we’re missing one.”
Carter, who has known Gabby’s father since grade school, said she has 18 girls on her squad. They planned to gather Sunday to remember their former teammate.
“This family—they were the best people,” Carter said. “There are no words. This is a nightmare.”
While Carter wasn’t at the game, she said parents told her that little boys were coming off the field to look for Gabby. The town was on lockdown.
“If someone did this and they’re still walking around, it’s scary,” she said. “This happened right in the middle of our school system, right beside the elementary school, right near the hospital everything is right here.”
Carter shared the same disbelief that scores of other Scottsville residents expressed on Sunday: Things like this don’t happen in their small town.
“It’s all too hard to handle right now,” Carter said. “We’re like Mayberry. You trust everybody, leave your door unlocked and don’t worry about it. But I don’t feel safe. Horrible stuff happens everywhere all over the world, but in this little town, it never did.”