Houston Police have located a missing 6-week-old infant girl who was possibly abducted after her mother was killed Tuesday in her apartment. The girl was found unharmed Thursday morning in a southwest Houston apartment and is being checked at a hospital as a precaution, police said on Twitter.
Shamali Flores had not been seen since December 19 when her mother, Carolina Flores, was found dead at the Magnolia Cove Apartments in the Greenspoint neighborhood of Houston.
A suspect, Erika Jisela Miranda-Alvarez, has been arrested and charged with capital murder. Police say that Miranda-Alvarez is friends with Carolina Flores’ brother, and that is how she was connected to her. Miranda-Alvarez recently had a miscarriage and was trying to hide that from her boyfriend, police said. The boyfriend has not been charged, but remains under investigation. Shamali was found at an apartment with Miranda-Alvarez and the boyfriend, who has not been named.
An Amber Alert spanning Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana had been issued and the FBI was involved in the search. Authorities initially released her name as Shanally, and it has also been spelled Chamali in some news coverage, but Houston Police clarified that the girl’s name is Shamali.
Police said Wednesday evening they had a theory that the girl might have been abducted by a woman who recently lost a child. They also said they believed the killer knew Carolina Flores and her family or was at least familiar with the apartment complex. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that the theory proved to be true.
Acevedo said a $5,000 reward had been offered for information.
“This woman deserves justice. Her family deserves justice. Her child deserves to be back home with her loved ones,” Acevedo said Wednesday evening at a press conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shamali’s Mother Was Found in Her Apartment by a Family Member Dead of Multiple Stab Wounds
Carolina Flores, 33, was found dead December 19 inside an apartment she shared with multiple family members at the Magnolia Cove Apartments in the 180 block of Goodson. Police said a family member found on the floor, unresponsive with multiple stab wounds, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“The murder and kidnapping happened between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m.,” Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Flores’ family told KSAT-TV that she moved to the United States from Honduras about five years ago for a better life. She was the mother of three children, including Shamali, and also cared for her niece and nephew. The other children were not harmed and are not missing.
“She was very kind, lovable, she was just a person that she was the light in the room, oh, Carolina and for this to happen is just, I just wish it didn’t happen,” her cousin, Jenny Lopez, told the news station.
Lopez told KSAT, “She had just had the baby. We had talked, she had just called me Sunday to check on me and I could hear it in her voice that it wasn’t her but I didn’t ask no questions, I didn’t think anything was wrong.”
She added, “That’s what’s really bothering me, that’s whats really eating me up alive because the baby is missing. The baby is only six weeks old. She just had the baby and for this to happen…” Lopez added that they are hoping the baby girl is found and that they get justice.
Police initially believed Shamali was 11 months old, but after locating a birth certificate inside the apartment, determined she is only 6 weeks old. They also corrected her name after finding that document after initially calling her Shanally. Others have called the girl Chamali Flores, but police say Shamali is her legal name.
Carolina Flores worked at two jobs to care for her family, ABC News reports. She worked at a local hotel and as a caregiver. Friends and family told the news station that she was a “hard-working woman.”
Police Chief Art Acevedo said Carolina Flores’ life was “brutally ended,” inside the apartment.
2. Police Said the Circumstances of the Case Are Similar to Other Abductions by Carried Out by Women Who Recently Lost a Child
Police said nothing was taken from the apartment. They said Wednesday evening that they had a theory that the baby was possibly taken by a woman who recently lost a child. If that is the case, the woman could be posing as Shamali’s mother. While it is just a theory, Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that the circumstances in this case matched similar ones around the country where young children have been abducted. It is not clear if that is the case or if Shamali was taken in different circumstances.
“We really believe based on what we’ve seen so far that this suspect who has this child is familiar with this family and familiar with this neighborhood. And we want the public to know that because we want the public to know what they should be looking for. The individual is also familiar with the Greenspoint area,” Acevedo said. “The individual who abducted Shamali may be a woman who has or will present the child as her own, and may even indicate the child was recently born.
“The public needs to really think about, especially in this area, think about anyone who all of a sudden has a child that you weren’t aware they were pregnant. Also think about people that may have lost a child recently. Women or families that may have lost a child recently. That may be someone that we may be interested in talking to,” Acevedo said.
“That is a theory of investigators,” he said of the idea that a woman took Shamali and is pretending to be her mother. “Based on a lot of similar cases throughout the country, frequently that’s a possibility. A lot of times when these incidents happen, when someone is brutally murdered, people always think about men. And they don’t realize that women are just as capable of committing murders, especially a woman who has lost a baby or has emotional issues.”
3. Shamali’s Father Was Located & Police Do Not Believe He Is a Suspect
Shamali’s father was initially listed in the Amber Alert as a person of interest. He was named in the alert as Thomas Bernardez, but authorities now say that was an alias and the 34-year-old father’s real name is Marcos Mariano Thomas Palacios. He was located late Tuesday in San Antonio and police do not believe he was involved in the abduction and killing.
“He was forthright and cooperative,” Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “He’s been helpful and the investigation continues.”
Police had also been searching for a vehicle they believed belonged to Shamali’s father, but they said that is also not believed to be connected to the crime.
Shamali’s father did not live in the apartment with his daughter and Carolina Flores, and authorities have not disclosed information about his relationship with his daughter.
4. The FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Response Team Was Helping to Search for Shamali
The FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Response Team was assisting in the search, officials from the bureau’s Houston office said Wednesday.
Douglas Williams, the Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge for the FBI in Houston, told reporters Wednesday night, “Today, the FBI is here with our partners, the Houston Police Department, with the sole mission of returning baby Shamali to the Flores family. As the Chief had mentioned, the FBI has deployed our Rapid Abduction Response team, which is a group of experts across the country that have significant experience in doing child abduction cases, they’re on ground here in Houston now.”
Williams added, “this is simply a theory right now that we have of a possible for an abduction. But we wanted to get our point across that the individual who may have abducted baby Shamali may be a woman, who has or will present the child as her own and may even indicate the child was born recently. However, the infant is not a newborn, the infant is six weeks old. So we’re just asking the community to keep an eye out for things that may seem abnormal in that area.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, police were using bloodhounds around the apartment complex where Carolina Flores was killed in an effort to locate Shamali.
Police spent most of the day Tuesday and Wednesday at the apartment complex while searching.
“Investigators are currently speaking with the victim’s family, friends and neighbors in an effort to develop leads in this case,” Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “We’re asking the public to come forward with any information that might help us safely find this newborn and return her to her family.”
5. Acevedo Told Members of the Hispanic Community Fearful of Law Enforcement They Are ‘Not Interested in Anybody’s Immigration Status’
At a press conference Wednesday night, Police Chief Art Acevedo said some members of the Hispanic community who live in the area where the homicide and abduction occurred or who might have information about the case could be fearful about coming forward due to concerns about police.
“We’re not interested in anybody’s immigration status,” Acevedo told reporters. “We’re just interested in justice. … If you heard anything, saw anything suspicious, please contact HPD’s homicide division or CrimeStoppers.”
Acevedo held up a picture of Carolina Flores and implored members of her community to help. “I just want you to see the face of this woman who was taken from us in a brutal homicide and we really believe that someone, somewhere has information. In this holiday season and this Christmas season, when we think about what we’re celebrating this weekend, you need to ask yourself what’s required of us. And what’s required of us is to come forward with information.”
He also held up a picture of Shamali, saying “this little baby … needs to be back with her family. So please, please, please, come forward.”
Authorities ask anyone with information to call the Houston Police Department at 713-308-3600.