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Bond denied for suspect Thomas McDowell in Jessica Gutierrez case

Now McDowell's murder charge bond will be set by a South Carolina circuit court judge.

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — A man charged in the 1986 kidnapping and murder of 4-year-old Jessica Gutierrez has been denied bond.

"It's one step closer to answers and justice for my sister," David Gutierrez, Jessica's brother, said.

David and his family are breathing a sigh of relief now that Thomas McDowell has been denied bond after being arrested and charged for the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Gutierrez.

The bond denial is just for the kidnapping charge. Under South Carolina law, the murder charge bond needs to be determined by a circuit court judge in the coming weeks. 

"My family and I, we really don't believe that the streets are safe with this caliber man walking around freely," Gutierrez said.

Lexington County deputies arrested McDowell last week in North Carolina where he was living.

RELATED: Arrest made in killing of Lexington County girl who disappeared in 1986

Investigators say he took the girl from her bedroom. David wants to bring his sister justice. They were just one year apart in age.

"She was a firecracker, she was very smart. I do believe she was smarter than me, but with us being the youngest, we paired up and she was a little sneaky. She enjoyed getting in trouble and dragging me along with her, but that was my best friend," Gutierrez said. "The day that she was taken, it just completely uprooted my whole entire family. Not just my sisters and my mom, but throughout the whole entire family. It hurt a lot.

RELATED: Neighbor of Jessica Gutierrez recalls first finding out about disappearance

Lexington county sheriff's department said McDowell will stay at their detention center until trial details are determined.

"There's been several times over the years where it felt like the only people that were looking for my sister or still thought about her was the family, so as long as families keep that hope alive. This is just an answer after almost 36 years ... People still care," Gutierrez said.

David's message for other families with missing children or people is to keep the faith.

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