MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A man has been arrested in California, 16 years after his stepdaughter was killed in Miami-Dade County, authorities confirmed.
Raul Mata, 46, who now lives in Watsonville, California, will be extradited to Miami-Dade to face charges in the murder of 16-year-old Dilcia Mejia.
According to detectives, officers were called to the family’s mobile home in northwest Miami-Dade on Sept. 17, 2004, regarding an unresponsive female.
Police said Mata directed officers to the body of the lifeless teenager.
According to authorities, Mejia was found with a cut to her neck and the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.
“She woke up to terror. Her precious life was taken by her then-stepfather Raul Mata,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said.
No arrests were initially made, but authorities said DNA obtained from her body led to a positive match for Mata.
Police said investigators now have physical and circumstantial evidence that links Mata to the killing.
“I am extremely proud of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homicide Bureau, Cold Case Unit, for closing a 16-year-long investigation,” Ramirez said. "Our Homicide Bureau takes great pride in being the victims' voice. There is no greater satisfaction than to provide closure to the family after such a tragic loss. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Watsonville Police Department, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for their collaboration in this case. "
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a statement, saying Mata’s arrest “should offer hope, not just for her family but for the families of all crime victims still yearning for justice. Those police officers and prosecutors working unsolved cases are among some of the most dedicated professionals one can ever hope to meet. All crime victims should gain strength from the knowledge, should by this arrest, that unsolved cases are never, never forgotten.”
A motive for the killing is unclear.
“What he did, I don’t know why. She was just innocent. Why would he do that?” one of Mejia’s cousins, Trinidad Gonzalez, told reporters Thursday at a news conference.
Detectives said they could not release too many details about the case because this is just the first step in bringing Mata to justice.
“I can tell you his demeanor changed as soon as we laid out the facts in front of him,” a detective assigned to the case said.
Anyone with further information about the case is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.