PASADENA, Texas – A man from Guatemala who is an illegal immigrant in the U.S. has been arrested and charged for the murder of an 11-year-old girl who resided in Texas and was found dead in her home last week.
Law enforcement authorities captured 18-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia Rodriguez who fled to Louisiana. He was arrested Saturday by the Shreveport Police Department. The migrant faces capital murder charges and is awaiting extradition to Texas, KHOU 11 News reported.
The young girl, Maria Gonzalez, was tragically found dead by her father, Carmelo Gonzalez, on Aug. 12. Her body was stuffed into a laundry bag and hidden beneath her bed. Authorities said Maria was sexually assaulted and strangled to death by Rodriguez.
“This arrest has brought the family and community some peace,” the Gonzalez family said in a statement, according to KHOU.
“We are extremely thankful that he cannot cause this type of pain to anybody again,” the family said. “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.”
Rodriguez lived at the same apartment building as the Gonzalez family. Investigators reportedly recovered a key from the crime scene that belongs to the suspect, and a DNA swab was also collected as evidence, the Post Millennial reported.
Although police initially interviewed Rodriguez as well as several others during the preliminary investigation of the homicide, he soon vanished and informed his roommate he was leaving town for a job.
Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger said Rodriguez wasn’t necessarily on their radar at the time he was interviewed as they spoke to several people who lived in the area, according to KHOU.
In January, Rodriguez illegally entered the U.S. through El Paso and surrendered to authorities. However, he was granted a release since he had a sponsor in Louisiana, according to the chief.
Maria had moved to the United States with her father four years prior and had only been living in the complex for three months when she was killed.