MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. (WPLG) -- A man has been arrested in California 16 years after his stepdaughter was killed in Florida, authorities confirmed.
Raul Mata, 46, who now lives in Watsonville, California, will be extradited to Miami-Dade to face charges in the death 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. Mejia was found with a cut to her neck and the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.
No arrests were initially made, but authorities said DNA obtained from her body led to a positive match to Mata. Police said investigators now have physical and circumstantial evidence that links Mata to the killing.
The Miami Beach High School student was last seen by her mother on the night of Sept. 16, 2004, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. She told police her daughter had been watching TV at their home at the Colonial Acres mobile home community.
Raul Mata made a frantic call to a 911 operator to report that he arrived home to find his stepdaughter had been killed. In his statement to initial statement to investigators, Mata said he left the family's home in the 9600 block of Northwest 10th Avenue at about 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2004, and discovered Mejia's body when he returned about 90 minutes later.
Mata was questioned at the time and repeatedly denied involvement in her death, but did admit he and Mejia did not get along well, according to authorities. He moved to California after he and Mejia's mother split, but police said he remained a suspect.
The key evidence, according to an arrest warrant is the stepfather's DNA was found underneath her fingernails, suggesting she scratched him during a frenzied fight for her life, the Miami Herald reports.
There were no signs of forced entry at the home, which was not ransacked, and nothing was taken from the scene, according to police.
Officers noticed a “significant amount of scratches and bruises” on Mata's left forearm and inner bicep at the time, police said. Also, his right thumb “showed signs of swelling,” the warrant said, suggesting he had been in a physical fight. Mata claimed he'd fallen on the girl's dresser while calling 911, the Herald reports.
Mata is accused of slitting Dilcia Mejia's throat in the bedroom of her North Miami-Dade trailer home on Sept. 17, 2004.
Mata was held without bail in Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of being a fugitive from justice, and was expected to face a charge of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon once he is extradited to Florida, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.