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Questions over earlier incident raised in girl's murder

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A dispute has flared up in the case of a murdered 9-year-old girl in Pennsylvania over whether the suspect should have been arrested in regard to an earlier incident involving the victim, officials and family members said on Friday.

James Troutman was arrested on Tuesday and charged with the rape and murder of Skyler Kauffman, whose body was found in a dumpster at their apartment complex in the Philadelphia suburb of Souderton.

Troutman, 36, a neighbor, was charged with 10 criminal counts, and police say he has confessed to the crime.

But some family members of the victim are questioning whether Troutman should have already been in custody after an incident on April 18, when the little girl and a friend went to his apartment door and asked to use the bathroom.

According to a so-called probable cause affidavit filed when Troutman was arrested, the two girls went inside and saw pictures of naked women on the walls.

They tried to leave but found the door locked, it said.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has declined to release the police report of the incident to settle questions that have been raised over possible discrepancies between it and the affidavit.

The affidavit gives an impression that Troutman could have been charged with false imprisonment while the police report may have a more benign account of the incident, said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who wants the report released.

"These discrepancies need to be resolved," he said.

The victim's grandmother Carol Kauffman said she does not think Troutman should have been arrested in the April 18 incident.

"They really had nothing to hold him on," she said.

But she said the girl's mother, Heather Gebhard, disagrees.

"She totally blames the police," Kauffman said.

Gebhard could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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