In a huge breakthrough in the horrible case of 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez’s murder, Pasadena police have announced the arrest of Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, a person of interest identified earlier in the investigation. The arrest, carried out by the Shreveport Police Department, comes after a week of intensive efforts to piece together the events leading to Maria’s untimely demise.
Garcia-Rodriguez became a person of interest last Friday, and since then, investigators have diligently gathered evidence that connects him to Maria’s death. Authorities have announced that Garcia-Rodriguez will be charged with capital murder and is awaiting extradition to Texas.
Speaking at a press conference, Pasadena Police Chief Josh Bruegger stated that Garcia-Rodriguez had been interviewed and subjected to DNA evidence collection on the day Maria’s body was discovered. At that time, he wasn’t considered a person of interest. “He wasn’t on our radar then. We spoke to him, just as we did with several other individuals in the vicinity,” Chief Bruegger explained.
Maria’s family, who had been grappling with the agony of their daughter’s loss, released a statement expressing gratitude for the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies: “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. This arrest has brought the family and community some peace.” They further implored for justice to be served and for Garcia-Rodriguez to face the consequences of his actions.
The trail that led to Garcia-Rodriguez’s arrest began with the discovery of a single key during the investigation at Maria’s home. Chief Bruegger highlighted the significance of this find, stating that it was a pivotal piece in advancing the case. The key, which didn’t belong to Maria’s residence, was found to open an apartment where Garcia-Rodriguez had been staying along with two other individuals. The roommates informed the police that they had tried to retrieve the key from Garcia-Rodriguez before he disappeared, but he had refused to return it.
Garcia-Rodriguez, originally from Guatemala and reportedly residing in the U.S. without legal authorization, had been apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection earlier this year. After his release, he was connected to the same apartment complex where Maria lived through his sponsors in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Chief Bruegger noted that there isn’t currently a warrant for Garcia-Rodriguez’s arrest, but authorities are seeking to locate him for further information.
Maria’s tragic fate was discovered on August 12 when her father, Carmelo Gonzalez, returned from work to find her lifeless body. Police were called to the scene, and it was determined that Maria had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Investigative efforts have ruled out her father and the apartment complex staff as suspects, focusing instead on Garcia-Rodriguez as a person of interest.
Carmelo Gonzalez described his daughter as a “sweet little girl” who had recently celebrated her 11th birthday. The Gonzalez family had immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala four years ago. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support Carmelo Gonzalez in laying his daughter to rest.
As the investigation progresses, authorities urge anyone with information to come forward, and Crime Stoppers has offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and/or arrest of the suspect(s) in this case.