Dilcia Mejia had just turned 16 when she was found with her throat slashed in September 2004.
Miami-Dade police said Thursday that testing on DNA from her body led to a positive match identifying her stepdad Raul Mata, 46, as the primary suspect in her death. That testing wasn’t available at the time of the murder.
CBS 4 Miami reported that an arrest affidavit says Mata’s DNA was found on Dilcia’s fingernails.
“While Dilcia’s life was tragically ended, for the next 16 years Mr. Mata went on to live his life thinking that he got away with this despicable crime,” police director Alfredo Ramirez III said. “Unfortunately for Mr. Mata the Miami-Dade Police Department never forgets its victims and through tenacious and resilient police work by our Homicide Cold Case detectives, our forensic lab personnel, and our State Attorney’s Office, we were able to bring him to justice in the name of Dilcia and her family.”
Mata, a nurse, was arrested this week in Watsonville, Calif., where he had started a new life with a new spouse and a child. He split with Dilcia’s mother in Florida after the murder, CBS 4 reported.
It was Mata who reported to police finding Dilcia’s body, the station reported.
“We need someone to come here,” he told 911, according to the station. “My daughter. My daughter. Somebody killed my daughter.”
In 2015, the station quoted a detective who said Mata was a suspect and that while he was questioned extensively, he denied any involvement in Dilcia’s death.
“I do believe that there is one individual out there who can shed some light on this case and take it in a new direction,” the detective, Robert Miller, said at the time.
The arrest affidavit says Dilcia and Mata had a strained relationship, and that he made inappropriate sexual advances. A school counselor knew about them and was about to tell her mother, according to the station.
A cousin of Dilcia’s said Thursday that she “was a joy in our lives and the loss of it left a huge hole in our hearts, and I know talking here doesn’t bring her back but speaking here is creating a voice for her.”