An 18-year-old charged in the horrific death of an 11-year-old girl made his first appearance in court on Thursday morning.
Juan Carlos Garcia-Rodriguez, charged with capital murder, walked into court wearing a yellow jumpsuit and handcuffs. He arrived back in Harris County on Wednesday after being arrested in Louisiana.
Sources say he made a full confession upon his arrest. Now, the suspect reportedly claims he was forced to kill the girl.
The judge ruled that he will be held with no bond.
Garcia-Rodriguez is accused of strangling and sexually assaulting 11-year-old Maria Gonzalez at the Main Village Apartments in Pasadena, where Maria lived with her father.
Investigators said it happened on Aug. 12 while her dad was at work.
Before Maria’s father, Carmelo Gonzalez, left for work, he heard a man talking on the phone in the stairwell, according to court details. Maria reportedly took out the trash, and when she got back, she told her father their “long-haired neighbor” was the one talking.
Carmelo told police he left for work around 9:45 a.m. 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.
According to court documents, when he got home from work, Carmelo found his daughter’s body in a trash bag inside of a clothes hamper underneath a bed.
Detectives were able to identify Garcia-Rodriguez as the suspect, thanks to a key he allegedly left at the crime scene. He was arrested a week later in Shreveport, Louisiana.
His roommate told reporters that Garcia-Rodriguez had lived with him for less than a month before he allegedly killed Maria.
It was revealed in court that the suspect claims he was held at gunpoint and forced to sexually assault and murder the girl — saying two other men were also involved. Prosecutors say they have not found any evidence to support that.
“We’re very happy that the judge agreed to continue to hold him at no bond. We believe he is a flight risk,” Lisa Calligan with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said. “It’s a very serious case, and we’re happy with the outcome today.”
Meanwhile, Garcia-Rodriguez’s defense attorney proclaimed his innocence.
“This is an accusation. In the criminal justice system, that accusation is simply an allegation,” defense attorney Mario Madrid said. “My client has a right to a trial and a right to defend himself, and at this time, he’s innocent until the state proves him guilty.”
DNA evidence still needs to be processed in the case, which officials say could take months.
Garcia-Rodriguez is due back in court on Oct. 30.