NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - After the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office concluded its investigation into the disappearance of a 15-year-old girl who was found in Lubbock on Feb. 26, the suspect in the case was charged with sexual assault of a child and enticing a child.
The kidnapping charge against Juan Fabian Arenas-Delacruz, 27, will be dropped, according to Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges. Delacruz, who is an illegal alien, is still being held in the Nacogdoches County Jail on a first-degree felony charge of kidnapping. a second-degree felony charge of sexual assault of a child, and a third-degree felony charge of enticing a child.
"We believe that the victim in this case did go with the suspect voluntarily, but we also believe that the victim may have felt pressured to go with the suspect," Bridges said. "The suspect who is 27 years of age has had a fixation on this victim for several months. We can definitely see where he has manipulated her during this time."
Arenas-Delacruz's bail has been set at $50,000 for the kidnapping charge. No bail has been set for the sexual assault of a child and enticing a child charges.
According a to a press release from the NCSO, the 15-year-old girl's mother reported her missing on Feb. 24 after she did not return home from school that day. Authorities launched an investigation immediately after the missing person report was filed.
In a previous East Texas News story, Bridges said because the girl's family does not speak English, the Sheriff's Office had to communicate with them through an interpreter.
NCSO investigators quickly identified Arenas-Delacruz as a potential suspect in the initial stages of the search for the missing girl. In a previous story, Bridges said Arenas may be a former police officer in Mexico and that even though he wasn't related to the 15-year-old girl's family, he had been friends with them for a few months.
"During interviews with family members and friends it was believed that the suspect took the juvenile against her own free will and left in a Volkswagen Passat silver in color," the press release stated. "Sheriff's Office investigators spoke with witnesses who stated that the juvenile had made mention that she was afraid of the suspect and what he would do to her."
Based on the initial information they learned during the early stages of the investigation, NCSO investigators believed the girl had been kidnapped and was in imminent danger. On Feb. 25, an Amber Alert was issued for the missing girl, and a kidnapping warrant was issued for Arenas-Delacruz.
After NCSO investigators tracked down a cell phone number for Delacruz, they started tracking his phone, the press release stated. Later, they tracked the phone to the Lubbock area.
A joint effort by the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office, the Lubbock Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety resulted in Arenas-Delacruz being caught at a construction site in Lubbock on Feb. 26.
Delacruz was taken into custody without any further incident. A short time later, the 15-year-old girl was found in a Lubbock motel room not far from where the suspect was found.
"The juvenile was transported back to the sheriff office the following day by the Nacogdoches County Sheriff Office," the press release stated. "Since that time, the Nacogdoches County Sheriff Office has been conducting a thorough investigation into the case."
Bridges said NCSO investigators interviewed the juvenile victim on four different occasions. Each time, they got a different version of the story. Arenas-Delacruz has also been interviewed.
Bridges said the facts of the case prompted the NCSO investigators to file arrest warrants for sexual assault of a child and enticing a child to have sex arrest warrants on Arenas-Delacruz.
In addition, Arenas-Delacruz allegedly confessed to the sexual assault of a child charge, according to the press release.
Bridges said because of the inconsistencies in the juvenile's story, the Sheriff's Office has decided not to pursue the kidnapping charges.
"At the conclusion of this investigation, we feel that the elements of the offense support the charges of enticing a child and the sexual assault of a child that also occurred," Bridges said.
In the press release, Bridges explained the enticing a child charge. Enticing a Child charge is defined as "a person entices, persuades or takes a child younger than 18 years of age from the parent or guardian without their consent."
In addition, Bridges said Arenas-Delacruz has a pending hold on him from the border patrol. He said they also expect the Lubbock Police Department to file additional charges on Arenas-Delacruz for crimes that occurred there while he had the 15-year-old girl with him.
"We are very glad and fortunate that the victim has returned home safe and we will continue to monitor her wellbeing," Bridges said. "Child Protective Services is also assisting in this investigation. "