Almost 25 years after a teenager was found raped and strangled to death in a Malibu ravine, a suspect has been charged with murdering her.
The body of 17-year-old Gladys Arellano was found beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted on Jan. 30, 1996, according to a Wednesday press release by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Although DNA evidence was collected from the young woman’s body, it didn’t match any on file, and for more than two decades, no arrests were made.
But then, a crucial break came in the case.
Last November, 42-year-old Jose Luis Garcia was arrested on a domestic battery charge in Fontana, California. During his booking, Garcia’s DNA was collected and uploaded to a state database — and it matched the DNA found on Arellano, according to the press release.
Investigators had previously spoken to Garcia in connection with Arellano’s death, Lt. Hugo Reynaga said at a Wednesday press conference. Garcia was 19 at the time of the murder and lived in “near proximity” to the teenager, but the nature of their relationship is currently unknown, Reynaga said.
Detectives contacted Garcia at his home in February and obtained a second DNA sample, which matched the evidence found on Arellano. However, before the case could move forward, the COVID-19 pandemic stalled investigations, Reynada said. It wasn’t until this summer that detectives again attempted to track down Garcia — by which point he had left California and was living in Dallas, Texas.
Investigators obtained an arrest warrant, and on Sept. 29, Garcia was arrested by federal officers, according to the release. He was extradited to California on murder charges last Wednesday and is being held on $1 million bond.
If Arellano was alive today, she would be turning 42 this Saturday, her niece, Samantha Moreno, said at the press conference.
“She had a beautiful soul. She was beautiful, intelligent and gorgeous, and had a radiant smile,” Moreno recalled.
It’s unclear whether Garcia has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.
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