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Jun 15, 1999

Murder suspect “courted” child

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On Sunday afternoon, ten year old Karen Cruz went to a party with one of her friends; by eight p.m. she was dead. Who killed this child who lived on Stadium Street in Orange Walk? Was it a stranger who saw her coming home, or did she leave her house to meet someone she knew? So far, police investigations indicate that the child was being “courted” by an adult male whose advances were observed on numerous occasions by classmates, friends and family, but tragically no one questioned the relationship. News Five was in Orange Walk Town today to get the latest on the investigation, and on the police’s prime suspect.

It is strongly believed that ten year old Karen Mathilda Cruz was killed by someone she knew and trusted. The standard two student of San Francisco Primary School was sitting inside her house watching TV just before she disappeared. The mother, Melina Cruz says she was at home that evening talking with a female friend by a side door and did not notice that her daughter had left the living room until her eldest daughter came home and inquired about Karen.

Melina Cruz, Mother

“It was seven thirty because the bigger one came at seven thirty and asked, “Mom, where is Karen?” Went to get a sweet. So they rushed to get sweet and they said Karen was not there. So they asked her friend where Karen was. Her friend pointed that Karen was in the room so they went into the room and she wasn’t there. So she said, “Mom, Karen is not here.” So I got up and said yes she is here, so we went in and tried to find her but she wasn’t here.”

Apparently no one in the neighborhood saw anything unusual. Cruz claims that she reported her daughter missing to the police around ten that Sunday night but says no one came out to help. It was not until almost one Monday afternoon that relatives made a horrifying discovery just two blocks from Karen’s home.

Jacqueline Woods

“It was at this spot that the body of ten year old Karen Cruz was found. All indications are that the little girl was brutally raped and then murdered.”

There were some visible bruises and scratches observed on the young girl’s hands and neck. She was still wearing the pink dress she had worn to the birthday party. Her mother is convinced the child knew the killer.

Melina Cruz

“Well I think that somebody was waiting by my house, waiting for the moment for her to come out. I think they tell her on the road that she was coming to wait for her such an hour. But then I am thinking it is a friend or someone, somebody that she knew. Yes, someone that she really knew.”

Orange Walk police have two men in custody. One of the suspects, a preacher from Yo Creek Village is reported to have become close friends with the victim and the family. There are also reports that the forty year old man frequented her school and bought her goodies at school.

Rufina Varela, Principal, San Francisco Primary School

“Well it really disturbs us in that all the time we have been investigating the matter we found out that there was a gentleman who has been coming to school. We had not noticed and according to the children they are claiming that the children had told them that it was an uncle. And for that reason they did not come forward to report it to the office because normally we would tell them that if they see any strangers around that they should come forward to the office and report.”

Cleveland Lord, the victim’s cousin, who happens to sell sweets outside of the school yard, told News Five he saw the suspect buying things for Karen.

Cleveland Lord, Cousin

“I just saw him several times. I do not remember how much.”

Q: “What did he used to do when he came to the school?”

Cleveland Lord

“He used to come. I saw them come to the gate with him and he gave her money and went away. I didn’t ask Karen. My mom asked Karen one day what that man was to her and she said that he was their uncle, so I didn’t bother about it.”

But the man didn’t only look for Karen at school. He even came to the home. Beatrice Cruz says she noticed that whenever he visited their house he would treat her sister as if she was extra special.

Beatrice Cruz, Sister

“He always came to my house. He always gave Karen things. It was scarcely that he would buy for all of us. But he would always buy Karen things or bring Karen things from Yo Creek. He would bring her mangoes or whatsoever.”

On Saturday, the day before Karen disappeared, the family claims that the man came by the house and said he wanted to take Karen to his village but was told by her mother that if the entire family can’t go then no one will. According to the family the man was supposed to pick them up that Sunday but he never came.

Beatrice Cruz

“That was strange also because this Saturday, I am just remembering, Karen wanted to go with him to Yo Creek. But my mom said if we can’t go, she can’t go by herself. So I tell my mother I don’t want to go, I want to stay and see some movie. Then my mother said well we can’t go and Karen started to cry because she wanted to go to a marathon at Yo Creek. The man then said let’s go on Sunday night when he is preaching. We never did go.”

But perhaps the most damning evidence to surface is a letter allegedly from the man to the child. According to Inspector of Police, James Magdaleno and the officer in charge of the Orange Walk Police Station, the letter was discovered this morning at the victim’s home.

Insp. James Magdaleno, Orange Walk Police Station

“We conducted a search there and while searching the home an envelope was found inside a school bag. Further searches inside the bedroom revealed that a letter written in Spanish was found that came in that same envelope. In parts of the letter, the contents of the letter he was saying that he didn’t want to be a family friend, that he wanted an intimate relationship with this girl now; that he does not want to be a friend of the family no more. Hence the reason he wrote her. He put money in there and he bought ideal for her at school.”

Magdaleno says at this time they do believe the mother knows something but for some reason has not been forthcoming.

Insp. James Magdaleno

“The mother told us that this same person we have in custody had written a letter before. It was the child’s birthday. She had taken that letter and torn it up. Again that letter was discovered by me under the mattress of the mother. And she had told us that yes, she had gotten that letter sometime last year and she had instructed one of her daughters to destroy the letter. But it was to my surprise today when I searched her bedroom and under her mattress the torn letter was found right there. We are trying to put it together but it is difficult as there were writings on both sides.

So we believe that there is something that she is hiding from us and she will be brought back in to be re-interviewed.”

Although police do not really have any strong evidence against the second suspect, Magdaleno says they believe the man can assist them with the investigation. Late this evening News Five was told the autopsy has indicated Karen was suffocated when someone placed a hand over her face. The time of death is estimated at 8 Sunday night based on the contents of her stomach. Fluid samples have been taken for testing.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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