A 25-year-old man charged in the slaying of 8-year-old Destiny Souza told police that he hit the girl in the head several times with a wooden jewelry box and then decided he needed to kill her so she would not tell on him, according to testimony yesterday at a preliminary hearing in Fairfax County.

Fairfax police Officer Thomas J. Lyons testified that Robert A. Miller spoke to police hours after Destiny was found beaten to death in the basement of her Springfield home. According to Lyons, the 170-pound Miller said he jumped on the girl's back several times.

Lyons grabbed an imaginary box and swung it on the stand.

"He showed us how he picked it up and takes the box and starts banging toward her skull," Lyons said. "He said he put his left hand on the dresser and his other hand on the couch and he jumped up and down on her several times . . . wanting to kill her, knowing he had to kill her."

" 'You felt you had to kill her so she wouldn't tell anybody'?" Lyons read from Miller's statement to police. " 'After I hit her, something had to be done.' "

Miller was arrested Sept. 17, about seven hours after Kathleen Souza found her daughter dead at the bottom of the basement stairs in their town house in the 8400 block of Sugar Creek Lane.

Destiny, a second-grader at Newington Forest Elementary, had gotten off the school bus about 1:20 p.m. and returned home alone.

Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said the girl's mother returned home about 30 minutes later, but could not find the girl in the house. She searched the neighborhood before she found the girl about 3:30 p.m. in the basement.

Horan said the girl's liver and lungs were ruptured and she had contusions on her chest, abdomen and back. "She suffered incredible trauma," Horan told Judge Gaylord L. Finch Jr., of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Horan did not describe a motive during the hearing, but said afterward that he believed that Miller, a boyfriend of the girl's aunt, attacked the girl after she started "smart-mouthing off to him." Miller had lived at the house a few months before the slaying, and had gone there that day to pick up some belongings, Horan said.

Miller's attorney, Glenn L. Clayton II, argued that Miller told police he didn't remember his state of mind at the time of the attack and that police made four attempts to get Miller to admit to "willfulness and premeditation," requirements in Virginia law to find a defendant guilty of first-degree murder. Clayton said the transcript doesn't prove premeditation.

Finch ruled that there was probable cause to send the case to the grand jury for indictment. The judge found Miller competent to stand trial. A state evaluation on whether Miller was sane at the time of the offense is due this month.