Dec 11, 2013 5:41 PM by NBC News
(KPNX) When the body of 14-year-old Claudia Ann Lucero was found in a Mesa, Arizona dumpster her mother's suspicions immediately centered on an estranged boyfriend.
Police Chief Frank Milstead announced Tuesday that Mesa detectives had arrested the mother's former boyfriend, Alex Anthony Madrid, 31, on suspicion of first-degree murder, sexual conduct with a minor and other charges related to Claudia's slaying.
He said the Mesa police crime lab matched Madrid's DNA to evidence on the body, which was found by "dumpster divers," who alerted police early Friday morning.
Milstead said Claudia's mother had reported her missing at about 10 p.m. on Thursday, less then three hours before police were notified about the dumpster divers' grisly discovery.
He said Claudia's mother said she immediately suspected Madrid, whom police arrested late Friday night on an unrelated probation-violation charge, allowing them time to build a murder case against him.
"The detectives were able to bring him into custody in short order to assure the safety of the community," Milstead said.
He said the mother, who played a critical role in helping police narrow down potential suspects, appeared to have a gut reaction that Madrid was responsible for her daughter's murder.
"There was concern of him by family members, who he was and what he was capable of," Milstead said.
He said police believe Madrid strangled Claudia with a ligature, but he declined to be more specific.
Madrid served time in prison for attacking someone else with a ligature during a domestic-violence incident; Milstead said that victim survived.
The incident is part of Madrid's substantial criminal history in Arizona and elsewhere.
"This is an incredible tragedy for the community and for the family. This little girl had done nothing wrong," he said. "This is a capital crime that will hopefully receive capital punishment."
Prior to the slaying, Claudia told her mother and her girlfriends that Madrid had touched her inappropriately, and Claudia's mother responded by insisting that Madrid leave their central Mesa apartment, only a couple of miles from where Claudia's body was found, Milstead said.
"She was afraid of Alex. Alex had inappropriately touched her," he said. "They lived in the same residence."
Madrid was being held Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor, molestation of a child, child abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment or concealment of a dead body and tampering with evidence.
Milstead said that police believe Madrid targeted Claudia.
"This is an isolated incident based on this suspect and this victim," Milstead said.
Milstead said police do not know how long Madrid was estranged from Claudia's mother, and the location of Claudia's slaying remains under investigation.
Claudia, who was described by friends as a talkative young teen who got good grades and enjoyed hip-hop music, never showed up for classes on Thursday at Mesa's Westwood High School, where she was a freshman.
Milstead said police suspected the body found in the dumpster was that of Claudia almost immediately after its discovery, based upon the description provided by her family.
He said Claudia typically was the last person to leave the family's apartment in the morning. The last time she was seen alive by her family was at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
Milstead said police become accustomed in their work to setting aside their emotions to do their jobs, but that was not possible in Claudia's senseless slaying.
"You can't find any reason for this crime and deal with it rationally," the chief said.
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