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A Florida man has been arrested for the previously unsolved murder of his stepdaughter that occurred more than 15 years ago.
The Miami-Dade Police Department announced last week the arrest of 46-year-old Raul Mata in connection to the murder of his stepdaughter Dilcia Mejia, who was found dead in her Miami home on Sept. 17, 2004. Officers responding to a call of an unresponsive female were met by Mata, who led them to Mejia, who’d sustained a deadly laceration to her neck, police said. Although the medical examiner’s office ruled the teen’s death a homicide, no arrests were made at the time.
A break in the case came with advancements in DNA testing, police said. The MDPD Forensic Services Bureau and Homicide Bureau, as well as the Cold Case Unit, worked together and were able to test DNA recovered from Mejia’s body, which authorities said turned out to be a match for Mata. Investigators identified Mata, who had since moved to Watsonville, California, as the primary suspect, and he was arrested, pending extradition to the Miami-Dade area, according to the release. He is facing a charge of first-degree murder.
Mata’s arrest marks a move towards justice in a tragic 16-year-old case, officials said.
“An unsolved murder leaves a surviving family with an unending pain and fear that their loved ones will be forgotten. The charging of Raul Mata for the alleged 2004 murder of 16-year-old Dilcia Mejia should offer hope, not just for her family but for the families of all crime victims still yearning for justice,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “Those police officers and prosecutors working unsolved cases are among some of the most dedicated professionals one can ever hope to meet. All crime victims should gain strength from the knowledge, shown by this arrest, that unsolved cases are never, never forgotten.”
On September 17, 2004, Mata was the one to call 911 to report that Mejia had been killed, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. He claimed that he’d come home and found Mejia dead, but authorities noted that he’d sustained various injuries that included scratches, bruises, and a swollen thumb. Now, more than a decade later, it was DNA that was retrieved from underneath Mejia’s fingernails that have linked Mata to the crime.
Mata had previously admitted to authorities that he and his stepdaughter did not have a good relationship but he maintained his innocence. Police had also learned that, before she was killed, Mejia had confided in a counselor at school that her stepfather had made inappropriate comments to her, CBS Miami reports.
In the years following Mejia’s murder, Mata and Mejia’s mother parted ways and Mata relocated to California, where he got married and fathered a child, according to the outlet.
During a press conference last week, Mejia’s loved ones spoke out about the effect her death had on their lives. The teen was “a joy” in the lives of those who knew her and her murder “left a huge hole” in the hearts of many, her cousin, Trinidad Gonzalez, said.
“What he did, I don’t know why. She was just innocent, you know? Why would he do that?” she said. “I’m glad that he was arrested, and he will face what he needs to face. That’s all I can say.”
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