MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Miami-Dade police have made an arrest in the murder of a northwest Miami-Dade teen 16 years ago.
Raul Mata, 46, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his stepdaughter Dilcia Mejia, whose life was taken just 5 days after her 16th birthday.
A new arrest affidavit suggests that Mata's DNA was found on Mejia's fingernails and says they had a strained relationship and revealed scratches and bruises were found on Mata's left forearm and inner bicep. The affidavit also said investigators told Mata that they had learned that a school counselor was on the verge of telling Mejia's mother that Mata had made inappropriate advances to her.
"I don't know why, she was just innocent, you know, why would he do that," said Meija's cousin Trinidad Gonzalez at a news conference at Miami-Dade Police headquarters in Doral where Gonzalez and two other cousins of Mejia spoke out.
Gonzalez told CBS4's Peter D'Oench "Dilcia Mejia 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. It's horrific what happened to her. No family should have to go through that."
"We are just so grateful to all the work of everyone here for what they did on this case," she said,
Mejia, 16, was last seen alive at 11 p.m. on September 16th, 2004, watching television inside of her inside her residence in the Colonial Acres Mobile home community at 9674 N.W. 10th Avenue. That's where she lived with her mother, Delcia Oliva, and Mata.
Miami-Dade police said her mother left the home for work on the morning of September 17th at 5:30 a.m. but did not check on her daughter.
Just after 9:15 a.m., police received a call from Mata who said he had just gotten home and discovered Meija's body with a slash wound on her neck.
"We need someone to come here," he told the dispatcher. "My daughter. My daughter. Somebody killed my daughter."
Mata was questioned and he denied any involvement in the death.
The Medical Examiner's office ruled it a homicide, however, no arrest was made at the time.
Mata and Oliva later separated and he moved to city 70 miles south of San Francisco where police say he started a new life with a new spouse who had a child with.
Through the years, investigators continued to pursue all possible leads.
Due to advancements in forensic technology, DNA from Meija's body reportedly led to a positive match identifying Mata as the prime suspect.
The arrest affidavit says in "May 2020 investigators requested that the victim's fingernail clips which were collected during her autopsy be retested and examined since there have been advances in DNA technology."
Police said investigators were able to link "physical and circumstantial evidence, successfully solving the case."
Miami-Dade Police Major Jorge Aguiar said "There have been advances in forensic sciences that we are looking at today plus we also used an extra set of eyes." Aguiar said it solving this troubling case was extremely gratifying.
"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. 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," said Miami-Dade police Director Alfredo Ramirez III.
Mejia's loved ones are grateful.
"It's just the biggest relief that our family has had, like a huge burden lifted from our shoulders. I'm left speechless and I'm glad that Raul Mata can face the consequences of his gruesome actions and what he did 16 years ago," said Trinidad Gonzalez.
Investigators located Mata in California, and with the assistance of the Watsonville Police Department, he was arrested and taken into custody. He is now awaiting extradition to Miami-Dade.
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