Police in Texas have named a Guatemalan immigrant as a person of interest in the alleged murder of an 11-year-old girl whose father discovered her strangled and shoved under a bed on August 12 in Pasadena, Texas, where she resided.
KHOU reported on Friday that police have identified the missing person as 18-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, who resided in the same apartment complex as Maria Gonzalez. The male vanished on Monday, as reported by Breitbart News.
According to Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger, Garcia-Rodriguez was interviewed and his DNA was collected shortly after the child's body was discovered, but he was not the focus at the time.
The department stated in a social media post on Friday that the apartment complex's employees had cooperated with authorities and none of them appeared to be involved in the case.
Officials shared more details about their investigation:
While investigators were processing the crime scene, a single key was located inside the apartment and collected as evidence.
This key has since been processed by our crime scene investigators and was not found to open any doors at the victim’s residence. Our investigators also confirmed that the young girl’s body was inside a plastic trash bag that was placed inside a laundry basket and concealed under a bed inside the home.
According to Breitbart News, the father of the child, Carmelo Gonzalez, departed her residence on August 12 because he had to go to work.
When she notified him via text that someone was pounding on their door, he instructed her not to open it, and she confirmed that she would comply. That was the last time he heard from her, despite repeatedly contacting her.
Then, he asked nearby relatives to check on her, but they were unable to locate her. A few hours later, when Gonzalez returned home from work, he discovered the girl's body beneath the bed and called 911 for assistance.
According to the medical examiner, she died of asphyxiation caused by strangulation. The examination also found she had been sexually assaulted.
“Gonzalez is not considered a suspect because his alibi appears to be solid,” the Breitbart News report said.
According to KHOU, the key discovered by authorities unlocked the apartment where Garcia-Rodriguez resided with two other individuals who claimed to be his acquaintances. These individuals had their keys and reported to officials that they attempted to obtain the man's key before he fled but he refused.
However, Bruegger stated that the young man lacked a key, adding, "There was a key to the apartment in the victim's apartment."
The KHOU report continued:
Bruegger said Garcia-Rodriguez is Guatemalan who is in the U.S. illegally. Earlier this year, he was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection before he was released to sponsors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was there that his sponsors had reached out to their connections in Pasadena and told them that Garcia-Rodriguez needed work and a place to stay. That’s how Garcia-Rodriguez ended up at the same apartment complex Maria stayed in.
Since then, law enforcement has contacted federal authorities "and flagged Garcia-Rodriguez with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security just in case he tries to cross the border," according to the article.