An urgent search is underway to find the person responsible for the brutal murder of an 11-year-old girl in Pasadena.

The Pasadena Police Department said Maria Gonzalez was likely choked to death and sexually assaulted on Saturday. Her body was found by her father after he came home from work.

Reporters spoke to the girl’s father, as well as a community member who is stepping up to try to find a lead in the case.

Maria and her father lived at the Main Village Apartments at 1004 Main Street. Police said they are from Guatemala, which is where Maria’s mother still is, and had been in Houston for just three months.

Before living in Houston, they lived in Austin, Texas and Florida. Maria was not enrolled at Pasadena ISD, police said.

The young girl was home alone on Saturday after her father, Carmelo Gonzalez, left for work at 9:45 a.m.

In Spanish, Carmelo told reporters he got a concerning text message from Maria minutes after he left. She reportedly told him someone was knocking on the door, and then, she stopped communicating.

A while later, he asked family members to check on her, but they said they could not find her inside the apartment.

Five hours after receiving the text from Maria, Carmelo returned from work and found his daughter’s body hidden under a bed, he told reporters.

Maria’s cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation due to strangulation and blunt force head and neck trauma, according to the medical examiner. Additional investigation determined that she had also been sexually assaulted.

Investigators said there did not appear to be any forced entry to the apartment.

Carmelo told reporters he doesn’t understand how someone could do something this awful. He said he isn’t going to rest until he figures out exactly what happened.

“It’s just unfortunate that this happened, but I know somebody knows something,” neighbor Shannon Arteche said.

Arteche lives nearby and, like many, was horrified to hear what happened.

Police said no suspects have been identified. It’s unclear if the cameras on the property were working at the time.

Federal investigators are helping Pasadena police investigate what happened. DNA samples have been taken from people who live in the complex, but investigators said they are running into some roadblocks.

“Getting cooperation has been, frankly, somewhat of a challenge,” Police Chief Josh Bruegger said.

Arteche, who has daughters himself, took the time to try to talk to residents, hoping to encourage someone to speak up.

“An innocent girl’s life was taken for nothing,” Arteche said.

Detectives with Pasadena PD say, at this point, the father’s whereabouts during the crime have been verified and he is not considered a suspect.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective M. Quintanilla at 713-475-7803 or Detective S. Mata at 713-475-7878.

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