PASADENA, Texas (WJW) – A father’s worst nightmare is playing out in a Houston suburb after an 11-year-old girl was found sexually assaulted and strangled to death under her bed over the weekend, police reported.
The girl’s body was found Saturday afternoon inside an apartment that she shared with her dad, who had been at work. In a press conference Tuesday, Police Chief Josh Bruegger of the Pasadena Police Department said officers were called to the home at about 3 p.m. for reports of a girl who wasn’t breathing. She was declared dead on scene.
“Any time you have a death, especially a child, one that’s been sexually assaulted, very brutal,” Bruegger said in the press conference. “Obviously, it’s also taking a toll on our officers that were out there and made the scene.”
The girl was identified as 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez. She had reportedly texted her father Carmelo Gonzalez earlier the morning, saying there was a person at the door knocking.
Family checked in on the child, but they were unable to find her. It wasn’t until Carmelo came home that he found Maria under the bed.
The cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation due to strangulation, a medical examiner’s office said.
“Additional investigation determined that the victim was sexually assaulted,” the Pasadena Police Department wrote in a media release.
A homicide investigation is ongoing. Police said the victim’s father is not currently a suspect, as he was confirmed to be at work.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to reach out to police. Crime Stoppers of Houston is also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, Nexstar’s KIAH reported.
Bruegger said police were also having “somewhat of a challenge” getting information from some of the undocumented immigrants who live in the apartment complex, but assured residents that they should not be reluctant, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m here to tell you right now, immigration status on the case [like that], it’s neither here nor there. The important thing right now is solving this case and getting the community safe,” said Bruegger.