18-year-old arrested after confessing to Pasadena 11-year-old's murder, sexual assault sources say

Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez had been living at the Main Village Apartments for 'three to four weeks' when Maria Gonzalez died.

Sunday, August 20, 2023
Suspect in 11-year-old's strangulation arrested, charged, police say
Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez was arrested in Louisiana and charged with capital murder a week after 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez was strangled.

PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) -- One week after a Pasadena girl was found sexually assaulted and strangled inside her apartment, the search for the suspect in her murder has ended.

Pasadena police confirmed 18-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez was arrested by Shreveport police. Records show he was booked into the Caddo Parish Jail Saturday. He is awaiting extradition back to Texas. Sources say he made a full confession.

I thought he was a "good person, but no, he's not a good person," his roommate told ABC13 in Spanish on Saturday. The roommate asked ABC13 to conceal his identity.

He said Garcia-Rodriguez had lived with him for less than a month when he allegedly killed their neighbor, 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez.

April Aguirre, who has been translating for the Gonzalez family, said she believes Garcia-Rodriguez exploited living so close to the girl. Her father, Carmelo Gonzalez, told investigators he left for work around 9:45 a.m. last Saturday. At about 10 a.m., he received a text from Maria that someone was knocking on their door. Police now believe that man was her neighbor, Garcia-Rodriguez. When Maria stopped responding to her father, he sent his brother, who lives a few doors down, to check in.

Garcia-Rodriguez's roommate said he was acting normally that Saturday. The roommate did not realize anything was wrong until Maria's uncle knocked on his door, searching for her.

"He checked in the restroom, the closet, looking for her," he explained.

Maria's father also came to the apartment. Around 3 p.m., police said Carmelo found her body wrapped in a trash bag inside a clothes hamper underneath her own bed. She had been strangled, beaten and sexually assaulted.

Two days later, Garcia-Rodriguez told his roommate he was leaving town for a job. When he was asked for his key, he said he was going to hold onto it

He said, "It's not going to be long. I'm coming back. It's fine," he said.

An urgent search is underway to find Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, who's a person of interest in the brutal murder of 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez.

Pasadena police believe Garcia-Rodriguez left his key at the scene. However, Chief Jeff Bruegger said investigators didn't realize that key opened the door to his apartment until after he left town Monday.

WATCH: Pasadena police chief gives update six days after girl murdered

Pasadena police Chief Josh Bruegger addresses how his investigators connected an 18-year-old to an 11-year-old girl's sexual assault and strangulation.

In January, Garcia-Rodriguez, a Guatemalan national, self-surrendered to US Customs and Border Protection in El Paso. He was released to his immigration sponsors in Louisiana. Bruegger said they live in the Baton Rouge-area. At a Friday press conference he told reporters the department's attempts to contact them had been unsuccessful.

Garcia-Rodriguez's roommate told ABC13 the arrest makes him feel better.

After nearly fainting at a vigil Friday evening, Carmelo Gonzalez asked for time to grieve. He sent out the following statement: "We want to say thank you to the Pasadena Police Department and to Louisiana police and any officials that participated in bringing this cold-blooded murderer into custody. This arrest has brought the family and community some peace. We are extremely thankful that he cannot cause this type of pain to anybody again. I ask for those who are in charge to give us justice. May he be burdened with the full weight of the law, for what he has done to my daughter."

A GoFundMe has been created to help the family with funeral expenses.