Medical examiner: missing Texas teen was strangled

January 27, 2011 5:24:15 AM PST
A 15-year-old girl whose body was found along a roadside in West Texas was strangled soon after her abduction from a motel where she had been babysitting the children of a man accused in her disappearance, authorities said Wednesday. Lubbock County Medical Examiner Sridhar Natarajan declined to elaborate on what was used to strangle Elizabeth Ennen Jan. 4, and would not comment on whether she had been sexually assaulted. Elizabeth had been listed as a runaway until her body was discovered Monday evening near Shallowater, about 10 miles northwest of Lubbock.

Police have jailed a suspect, 45-year-old Humberto Maldonado Salinas, on a charge of aggravated kidnapping.

Police brought a preliminary case on a murder charge to the prosecutor's office Tuesday. District Attorney Matt Powell said he wants investigators to gather more evidence before he brings charges against Salinas in the slaying.

"I want them to do some more things," Powell said.

Jail records indicate Salinas does not yet have an attorney.

No one answered the door at the home of Elizabeth's mother, Virginia Ennen, on Wednesday. A posting Tuesday afternoon on Virginia Ennen's Facebook page reads that she and Elizabeth's two brothers "love you and will forever miss you!!!!! LOVE YOU BABY RIP Elizabeth."

According to a police report, Elizabeth was babysitting Salinas' children at the motel. The report says Salinas told police he was playing bingo and that his wife had gone out with her sister.

Police reports detail motel surveillance video footage that shows Salinas chasing the Lubbock Monterey High School student in a hallway, then grabbing her by the arm and forcing her toward a parking lot where his vehicle was parked. Footage then shows the vehicle leaving the motel, returning, then driving away again.

Lubbock police Capt. Greg Stevens said Wednesday that investigators believe Elizabeth was killed soon after she was abducted from the motel. He did not elaborate.

Salinas was at Elizabeth's home when her mother reported her missing early Jan. 5. He told police that Elizabeth had been babysitting his children at a different motel to the one where he was recorded chasing her. He also said he had dropped her off at her home about 1:00 a.m. Jan. 5 and returned there after finding her purse on the floorboard of his car.

Elizabeth had watched Salinas' children previously and her mother trusted Salinas, police said.

For those reasons, Stevens said, Salinas was not a suspect early on. He said the suspect had been "misdirecting the investigation . . . in the opposite direction from the truth."

Salinas has told investigators that Elizabeth was "like a daughter" to him, according to the reports.

Powell said he will probably present the case to grand jurors and let them decide on whether to charge Salinas in Elizabeth's death. He said his office is a long way from deciding whether to pursue the death penalty.

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