Homicide squad detectives have charged a man with the murder and rape of 11-year-old Zoe Buttigieg in Wangaratta.
The 29-year-old Mildura man was charged on Wednesday afternoon with one count each of murder, sexual penetration of a child and an indecent act with a child under 16.
The man faced an out of sessions remand hearing on Wednesday and was remanded in to custody to appear at the Wangaratta Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zoe’s “overwhelmed” family thanked the Wangaratta community for its support in the days following the 11-year-old’s death.
In a statement, released through Victoria Police, the family expressed its grief and gratitude.
“Zoe’s family would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Wangaratta police, the homicide squad and paramedics who attended the scene,” the statement said.
“Their continuing support during this terrible time in our lives has just been extraordinary.
“We are overwhelmed by the community support and would like to say a huge thank you to those who organised and attended the candlelight vigil at the park that Zoe always enjoyed playing at.
“We are so very touched and thankful for all the personal messages and tributes and for the concern which has been shown for the well-being of the family.
“Zoe’s mother would like to personally thank all who have stood by her.”
A fundraiser for the family is being set up as the type of event the 11-year-old would have liked to attend.
A big crowd is expected at Wangaratta Racecourse on November 20 for a fair held in the little girl’s honour.
Fundraiser organiser Cassandra Bennett said she went to school with Zoe’s mother and wanted to help out.
“I just saw everyone being down a bit about what’s going on, as you’d expect,” she said.
“It’s about honouring Zoe.”
The fundraiser, which will cost a gold coin donation for entry, will feature Harley Davidson rides, music, food, auctions and a range of different stalls.
“It started small, but it ended up getting bigger,” Ms Bennett said.
She said she would also like to help set up an annual scholarship for a Yarrunga Primary School pupil in Zoe’s name.
More than 500 people honoured Zoe’s life at a candlelight vigil on Tuesday.