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A North Carolina man was arrested last Thursday in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a 4-year-old girl., who was snatched from her bed in the wee hours of the morning, 35 years ago.
Thomas McDowell, 61 years old, has been accused of murder for the disappearance, in 1986, of Jessica Gutiérrez, who is still missing and “is presumed dead.”
The man, who will be sent to the South Carolina Police Department, where the crime took place, also faces charges of kidnapping and robbery in the first degree.
“I’m glad God brought me to see him,” Jessica’s mother, Debra Gutiérrez, told the News & Observer. “I prayed that he would help me get through it, and we have waited for this for a long time,” he added.
Authorities believe Jessica was abducted from her Lexington home sometime after midnight on June 6.. Her sister said a man “with a magical hat and a beard took her away last night,” according to News & Observer.
Despite a massive search, neither Jessica nor her killer were found; Authorities said they “took a new look” at the case in September along with FBI agents and analysts from the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team and prosecutors from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said police reviewed more than 3,500 pages of files and interviewed more than 125 people.
“Thanks to the work we did, coming together as a team, we were able to sort and connect more pieces of the puzzle about what happened to Jessica so many years ago,” Koon said in a statement.
Authorities said McDowell was living in Lexington County in 1986 when Jessica disappeared. According to an arrest warrant obtained by PEOPLE, a fingerprint found was later identified as belonging to McDowell.
McDowell was later identified through a series of photographsstatements were made to other sources that he had kidnapped the victim and killed her, ”says the arrest warrant.
McDowell is being held without bond at the Wake County Detention Center in Raleigh until he is extradited to South Carolina. It is not known if he has hired an attorney.
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