A suspect has been arrested in the murder of a 14-year-old Mesa, Arizona, girl who was sexually assaulted, strangled and dumped in a trash container, police announced Tuesday.
Alex Anthony Madrid, 31, is being held without bond on suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor, molestation, child abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment/concealment of a dead body and tampering with physical evidence, according to a Mesa police news release.
The body of 14-year-old Westwood High School student Claudia Ann Lucero was found Friday around 12:30 a.m. by two women sifting through a Dumpster for recyclables at the Sun Garden apartments.
Lucero was last seen the previous morning around 6:30 a.m. at her home in Mesa before she left to school, but police say she never made it. Her mother reported her missing later that night.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office positively identified the body Friday morning. Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead said at a news conference Tuesday that Lucero was sexually assaulted and died by strangulation.
Madrid, a recently estranged boyfriend of Lucero’s mother, was identified as a person of interest early in the investigation, according to Milstead. Authorities said Madrid had previously lived at the Lucero home, but over the past weeks he was estranged from the family.
"It was known to detectives that Claudia was afraid of Alex. He had inappropriately touched her, on occasion,” Milstead said at the news conference.
Mesa detectives subsequently learned of open charges for a probation violation on Madrid, and within hours of identifying Lucero’s body, they were able to locate and arrest him on that charge after a short vehicle chase.
Milstead said police were able to link Madrid to Lucero’s death through DNA evidence. There was also a gray-colored rug found in the same Dumpster that authorities say matches the interior of Madrid’s trunk, according to police.
"There was biological evidence left behind,” Milstead said.
Madrid, a construction worker, was charged with Lucero’s death Tuesday following police questioning where he invoked his rights.
“The case involving Claudia Lucero was a case that you cannot compartmentalize, you cannot shelter your emotion, there is no way for us to possibly find any reason for the nature of this crime and for any of us to deal with it rationally,” Milstead said.
Milstead added a motive for the killing is not yet known, and he hopes Maricopa County prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
“It is a tragedy. I want to ensure everyone out there that this is an isolated incident based on this one suspect and this victim,” Milstead said.
Madrid doesn’t have an attorney yet, and police say he refused to talk to detectives about the case.
"We want answers," Ricky Lucero, the victim’s older brother told CBS News 5 Monday. "That's my sister. For them to throw her in the trash like that just tells me my sister was trash, and she wasn't trash. She wasn't trash at all.”