Thu. May 23rd, 2024

The man accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in Texas before allegedly strangling her to death was arrested out of state, according to police.

On Saturday, authorities confirmed that the Shreveport Louisiana Police Department arrested 18-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, who is awaiting to be extradited back to Texas.

A key left near the remains of an 11-year-old girl at an apartment complex in Pasadena, a suburb of Houston, was the “crucial” link that police used to identify the 18-year-old suspect, who was named a person of interest on Friday.

The Pasadena Police Department revealed the new detail on Friday, six days after Maria Gonzalez’s father found her strangled underneath a bed last Saturday.

According to Chief Josh Bruegger, a key left at the scene that didn’t open to the girl’s unit, where she was left for dead, was located when investigators swept through last Saturday.

Police used that key to try and match it with doors to other units at the Main Village Apartments at 1004 Main Street. While Bruegger didn’t immediately explain how Garcia-Rodriguez was tied to the key, he said it opened to a unit where the suspect was staying, which is also where two other people resided.

In addition, the image that Pasadena police produced hours before the chief’s Friday afternoon news conference came from body-worn camera footage when investigators interviewed Garcia-Rodriguez shortly after the girl’s body was found. The chief explained they talked with and obtained DNA samples from 10 neighbors and witnesses, including Garcia-Rodriguez, as part of their investigation. Garcia-Rodriguez was described as “evasive with investigators,” Bruegger said.

Bruegger went on to explain that his investigators learned Garcia-Rodriguez had been living at the apartment complex for three to four weeks when the murder took place. Garcia-Rodriguez, who is from Guatemala, was staying with people who were known to other people he knew, or “friends of friends.”

When his roommates asked him to return his key, Bruegger said he told them he was “going to hang onto it,” Bruegger added.

Bruegger said he was not considered a person of interest or under surveillance when he left town. Police did not realize the key found at the scene unlocked his unit until after his departure.

Garcia-Rodriguez’s first documented encounter with U.S. Customs and Border Protection was in January in El Paso. He was released to his sponsors in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. Bruegger said the department has been unable to make contact with his sponsors.

Police couldn’t say whether the Garcia-Rodriguez and the victim knew each other, but the chief added they lived in close proximity.

Bruegger admitted the case had been a struggle for his department, mainly due to information being unearthed from other sources.

Strikingly, one of those things was an elaboration of how Maria was found. Bruegger confirmed the child’s body was stuffed in a trash bag that was placed inside a clothes hamper, which was put under a bed.

Last Saturday, the 11-year-old’s body was found hidden under her bed, a young victim of sex assault. She had been alone in the apartment while her father was at work.

The last communication Carmelo Gonzalez had with his daughter was a text message that someone was knocking on the door. It wasn’t until hours later that he discovered her body when he got home from work.

According to Pasadena police, all apartment complex employees, including the maintenance staff, have fully cooperated with their investigation and at this point do not appear to be involved.

Maria and her father lived at the Main Village Apartments. Police said they are from Guatemala, which is where Maria’s mother still is, and had been in Houston for just three months.

Before living in Houston, they lived in Austin, Texas, and Florida. Maria was not enrolled at Pasadena ISD, police said.

The young girl was home alone on Saturday after her father, Carmelo Gonzalez, left for work at 9:45 a.m.

In Spanish, Carmelo said he got a concerning text message from Maria minutes after he left. She reportedly told him someone was knocking on the door, and then, she stopped communicating.
A while later, he asked family members to check on her, but they said they could not find her inside the apartment.

Five hours after receiving the text from Maria, Carmelo returned from work and found his daughter’s body hidden under a bed.

Maria’s cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation due to strangulation and blunt force head and neck trauma, according to the medical examiner. Additional investigation determined that she had also been sexually assaulted.

Investigators said there did not appear to be any forced entry to the apartment.

Carmelo said he doesn’t understand how someone could do something this awful. He said he isn’t going to rest until he figures out exactly what happened.

“It’s just unfortunate that this happened, but I know somebody knows something,” neighbor Shannon Arteche said.

Arteche lives nearby and, like many, was horrified to hear what happened.

Detectives with Pasadena PD say, at this point, the father’s whereabouts during the crime have been verified, and he is not considered a suspect.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com

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