Arrest made in drain body case

November 22, 2008 9:27:32 PM PST
Flowers are springing up in an impromptu memorial for a mother found dead, stuffed in a storm drain in a quiet neighborhood in Fort Bend County.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Investigators are piecing together her final moments. The brutal death has affected people in the neighborhood where she was found, but police still have many questions. The victim was discovered Friday off Quarter Path and Plantation in the Pecan Grove area.

Steven Oliver, 21, refused to talk to Eyewitness News from inside the Fort Bend County jail. But he is telling investigators what he says happened. They say he's admitted disposing the victim's body and cleaning up the scene. But Oliver reportedly claims he didn't kill Melissa Barajas.

Those living in the otherwise tranquil Pecan Grove placed flowers and a stuffed animal on the storm drain in which the victim's body was found. Melissa Barajas was just 25. She was stabbed repeatedly around her chest and neck.

Behind bars at the Fort Bend County jail is the man who investigators say has admitted disposing of her body -- 21-year-old Steven Oliver.

"They were just acquaintances," explained Chief Craig Brady with the Fort Bend Count Sheriff's Office. "The male, at least according to friends, at least wanted more of a serious relationship. It's unknown at this point what her opinion was of that."

Oliver denies killing Barajas. He lives just three doors down from the storm drain, in his parent's home. No one answered the door there tonight. Investigators found oliver by following the blood trail back from the drain to that home. Detectives say Oliver tells them the wounds on Barajas were self-inflicted. It's a story they don't believe.

"It's my opinion that his statements are strictly self serving," said Chief Brady. "He's just trying to cover what he knows the evidence is that we have."

Barajas' body might not have been discovered so soon, had it not been for a woman who drove by the scene at about 4:30am Friday. She tells investigators now that she actually saw someone dragging a body, though she wasn't sure what it was at the time. Only after returning after work did she look closely enough to find a trail of blood. That's when she called authorities.

Neighbors wish they could have done something for Barajas to save her life. They call the whole incident surreal.

"It's unbelievable. I never would have believed it," said neighbor Carol Copeland. "Nothing like that ever happens out here."

Melissa Barajas leaves behind family, including her six-year-old son. The family issued a statement which reads, in part:

    "We are shocked and devastated by the sudden and violent death of Melissa. She will be missed by many, particularly her son."
Oliver is charged with tampering with evidence. His bond is set at half a million dollars.

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