Almost 20 years after the body of a woman was found floating inside a suitcase in the Biscayne River Canal, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced Tuesday they have charged her ex-boyfriend with her murder.
Authorities said they have charged 45-year-old Berkley Calvin Curtis Jr. with 2nd-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Rebeca Pena.
Rafael Pena, Rebecca's father, describes getting the call with the news. His words have been translated from Spanish to English.
"With this news of the arrest of this person, the pain will be less because justice has been served," he says. "But the emptiness is still there and won't go away."
"Every day we don't see her here, we cry a little," he continues. "But we're satifsifed with the life we gave her. I tell everyone, enjoy life with your children, and forgive them, because you don't know what may happen one day."
Pena's body was discovered by boaters on April 16, 2001 inside of a floating suitcase in the river along with two 25-pound weight lifting plates, which were intended to help keep the body underwater.
Police said they also found a magazine addressed to the Pena family with a Silver Springs, Maryland address, which was the residence of Pena and her ex-boyfriend, Berkley Calvin Curtis Jr., the father of Ms. Pena's child, authorities said.
"An unsolved homicide gnaws at the heart every parent and every family member left behind," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Each survivor waits for the day that the killer of their loved one is brought to justice. For the Pena family, we believe that day has finally arrived. I want to commend the Miami-Dade Police Department for their hard work and commitment toward bringing the accused killer of Rebeca Pena to justice."
She credits new forensics and modern-day technology for the information they needed to move the case forward.
"We could go back and look at GPS records, for instance. And today, we could see where people are moving around. So that was a huge asset for us."
She also said there were additional clues regarding the suitcase and the weight plates, but she says she could not go into further detail.
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In 2001, Pena had been working as a movie extra during the filming of the movie "Ali" and was last seen leaving the set in her white Honda Civic around 2:15 a.m. The vehicle was later found parked at her apartment in Miramar.
Detectives said Pena had been stalked by Berkley Calvin Curtis Jr. and that she had an active restraining order against him.
Pena's father told authorities that his daughter was afraid of Curtis and was concerned that he would harm her.
The victim's sister told police that Curtis had been physically abusive to her sister in the past, citing an incident in November of 1998, where Curtis" became violent, choking her and requiring police intervention.
Detectives said that back in 2001, there was not enough evidence to charge Curtis in connection with Pena's death.
"I am exceptionally proud of our current, former and retired homicide investigators who worked relentlessly on solving this nearly 20-year-old case, "said Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez.
"Bringing closure to the family of Rebeca Pena nearly 20 years later is just one example that we never forget the victims that no longer have a voice. The Miami-Dade Police Department is humbled and honored to be a part of this process."
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