Police in Louisiana arrested a man illegally in the country Saturday after authorities said he was the prime suspect in the sexual assault and strangling of an 11-year-old Texas girl last weekend.
Shreveport police arrested Guatemalan national Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, 18, who is awaiting extradition back to Texas to face capital murder charges in the Aug. 12 death of Maria Gonzalez.
Police in Pasadena, Texas, identified Mr. Garcia-Rodriguez as a person of interest Friday after they found a key inside the girl’s home that belonged to the suspect’s apartment unit.
Investigators later obtained “corroborating evidence and subsequent information” that linked Mr. Garcia-Rodriguez to Maria’s death and issued a warrant for his arrest, law enforcement authorities said.
“We want to say thank you to the Pasadena Police Department and to Louisiana police and any officials that participated in bringing this cold-blooded murderer into custody,” Carmelo Gonzalez, Maria’s father, said in a statement to KHOU-TV. “I ask for those who are in charge to give us justice. May he be burdened with the full weight of the law, for what he has done to my daughter.”
The girl’s death was particularly grotesque. Police said Maria’s body was wrapped in a trash bag and stuffed inside a laundry basket that had been shoved underneath her bed.
Mr. Gonzalez, who left for work around 9:45 a.m. on the day Maria died, told police his daughter contacted him soon after to say someone was knocking at the door. The father told her not to answer the door as she was home alone.
Police said Mr. Gonzalez asked family members living in the apartment complex to go check on Maria around 1 p.m. The relatives couldn’t find the girl.
Once he got off work around 3 p.m., Mr. Gonzalez raced home and found his daughter’s mangled remains.
A medical examiner later determined Maria was strangled to death, and she had also been sexually assaulted.
Pasadena police said the suspect, Mr. Garcia-Rodriguez, was picked up by U.S. border agents in January while crossing into the country.
He was later released to sponsors in Baton Rouge, according to authorities, who said the sponsors then sent him to Pasadena for work and he got a room in the same complex where Maria lived.