A suspect has been arrested after a 16-year-old cheerleader was found dead in the bathtub of her Texas apartment earlier this week, police announced on Sunday.
Rafael Romero, 23, was taken into custody in Schulenburg, Texas, about 75 miles north of Edna, the small city where high schooler Lizbeth Medina lived. Romero, identified by Edna police as “an undocumented male,” was taken back to Jackson County Jail on suspicion of capital murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty upon conviction.
“Although Romero is apprehended, we recognize [Lizbeth]’s family and friends are grieving and will still need support from the community,” a statement from Edna Chief of Police Rick Boone read. “The citizens of Edna can now sleep in peace!”
Further details on Romero’s arrest were not immediately available. Police have not said whether he and Medina knew each other, nor have they released a possible motive in her slaying. A cause of death has not been released, and an autopsy report was pending on Sunday.
Medina’s mother, Jaqueline, went searching for her on Tuesday evening after she failed to show up to a Christmas parade where she and her cheerleading squad had been set to perform, she told local Houston station KTRK. Returning to their apartment, Jacqueline discovered her daughter unresponsive in the tub. The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene after officers were summoned to the property.
“The most horrible way a mother could find her child,” Jacqueline told KHOU. “She was murdered in cold blood.”
“She was always there for everybody—charming, young, and full of energy,” Ana Medina said. “That was all just cut short.”
Romero’s arrest comes a day after the Edna Police Department announced it had identified a person of interest and an associated vehicle in the case, including low resolution images of a man who resembles the 23-year-old suspect. That night, the Edna community mourned Medina at a candlelight vigil.
“You took an angel from me, and not only from me, from a lot of people who loved her,” Jaqueline Medina told KTRK.
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