A Bakersfield, California, girl who just turned 13 is believed to be dead and police have Armando Cruz, of Inglewood, in custody on suspicion of her sexual assault and murder, local media reported Tuesday.
Patricia Alatorre disappeared on July 1 and was considered a missing person until Monday night when law enforcement informed the family that she was dead and a planned Black Lives Matter demonstration in front of the family home became a tearful vigil, the Bakersfield Californian reported.
Cruz, 24, was arrested Sunday and faces numerous charges allegedly related to the girl’s death.
Here’s what you need to know:
Patricia Vanished on July 1 & Police Said Surveillance Footage Showed Her Getting Into a White Truck
UPDATE: Police release image of suspicious vehicle spotted around time of 13-year-old girl's disappearance https://t.co/R7OadIHAvu
— KGET 17 News (@KGETnews) July 5, 2020
Patricia’s family initially thought she had run away from home. Her mother told local NBC affiliate KGET that Patricia made a “makeshift person” in her bed by stuffing pajamas under the cover, but she had never tried to run away before.
Her family tried to locate her cellphone, but found that the signal cut off south of Bakersfield, the outlet reported.
On July 4, police released to the public an image of a white truck they said was spotted in the area around 11:30 p.m. on the night of Patricia’s disappearance. The truck led them to their suspect, local ABC affiliate 23 News reported.
Police Arrested Cruz Sunday Night & Charged Him With Murder, Rape & Other Sexual Offenses Involving a Minor
Bakersfield Police told @23ABCNews this is one of the worst cases they have ever seen.
BPD has booked an Inglewood man for murder and sexual assault charges in the missing case of a 13-year-old girl from Bakersfield. pic.twitter.com/NWDL0b7TCa
— Danielle Kernkamp (@D_Kernkamp) July 6, 2020
Immediately after locating and questioning Cruz, Bakersfield police booked him and charged him with murder, holding him without bail in the Kern County Jail, the Californian reported.
According to Kern County records, Cruz faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping to commit robbery/rape, contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense, rape by force/fear, mutilating remains, concealing evidence and more.
Police have not released information on whether Patricia’s remains had been found, according to the Californian.
Cruz had a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Heavy was unable to immediately find defense attorney information, and Bakersfield and Inglewood police had not responded to requests for comment as of Tuesday.
Patricia Was Known Affectionately As ‘Slim’ & the Community Held a Vigil In Her Honor At the Family’s Home Monday
About 300 people gathered Monday night in front of Patricia’s family’s home amid candles, toys and memorials to the girl family and friends affectionately called “Slim,” Univision reported.
Community advocacy group Thee Next Step was part of the vigil and posted video to Facebook of the event.
“Bakersfield lost a daughter this tragic day,” they wrote. “But, heaven gained an angel. And, she will see justice. The family that is Kern County will see it through!”
The group also organized a demonstration in front of the Kern County Courthouse Tuesday, during Cruz’s first court appearance, according to their Facebook page.
Patricia’s family has set up a GoFundMe page in hope of giving her the “best ceremony possible.”
Vivianna Alatorre said on the page that police described the murder as “one of the worst cases they’ve seen.” However, she insisted that Patricia be remembered for her love and personality — not as a victim.
“He took our precious soul, our baby,” Alatorre wrote. “She was innocent, full of life. I don’t want Patricia to be remembered as the 13-year-old missing girl or the case of the murdered 13-year-old girl. I want her to be remembered as the loud Patricia, she was, she had a voice, bold personality. She was a sweet girl that would just tell you what she felt. Even if it was a little harsh, she always spoke the truth, she always had something to say about everything.”
Heavy has requested a photo of Cruz from the Bakersfield Police Department, but had not heard back as of yet late Tuesday afternoon.