On Sunday, police in Dallas arrested Angel Sanches, 17, after he reportedly strangled his 5-year-old cousin to death and left her tiny body hanging inside a closet inside an abandoned unit at the Sontera Palms Apartments in Lake Highlands. The victim "was found hanging in a closet by a shirt around her neck," according to court documents.
The victim, Katherine Gonzalez, was staying with her uncle at the apartment complex, while her parents were at work. The uncle called police when he could not find the girl. Officers searched the complex and soon made the grisly discovery.
A witness, Freddie Washington, saw Sanches lure the little girl into the apartment.
Washington told WFAA:
He kept telling her to 'Come on, come on,' like come home or something. I think he waited for me to leave around the corner and then took her into the vacant apartment.
Despite the eyewitness account, Sanches has denied killing his cousin, blaming the horrific crime, instead, on a mysterious man named "Carlos." The Mexican national claims that "Carlos" forced both he and his cousin "at gunpoint" into the vacant apartment and that he "exited the apartment" after he heard the closet door close, according to police.
However, once he was placed under arrest, he told investigators in Spanish "I did not rape her," and then claimed to be only an accomplice.
Police have collected DNA samples from Sanches, in order to match them with evidence taken from the murder scene. It is not yet clear, if a sexual assault also occurred.
During the course of their investigation, police determined that Sanches is in the country illegally.
Sanches has been charged with capital murder-victim under the age of six, and is currently being held in the West Tower of the Dallas County Jail on an ICE detainer.
If convicted, Sanches will only face up to life in prison, as he is a juvenile and therefore not eligible for the death penalty under Texas law.