A 31-year-old man faces capital murder and molestation charges after he allegedly stabbed his nine-year-old stepdaughter to death to cover up months of sexual abuse.
Prosecutors claim Jacinto Zuniga Trujillo, from Long Beach, Los Angeles, stabbed the girl as he feared she would reveal he had been sexually abusing her since November.
The body of the girl – identified in court papers as Xiomara Fernandez – was found in the parking lot of Los Altos United Methodist Church on Saturday at about 11 a.m., according to the LA Times.
‘Killer’: The child’s stepfather Jacinto Zuniga Trujillo allegedly stabbed her before stabbing himself
She was in a pool of blood and had been stabbed several times on her upper body. Trujillo’s body was found close by with a number of self-inflicted stab wounds.
It is believed he tried to commit suicide. He was taken to hospital for treatment but survived and was immediately taken into custody on suspicion of murder.
Words and letters written in blood on the side of a grey container near to where the girl’s body was found. Investigators are considering the scrawls as evidence in the case.
While authorities have not revealed what the words say, the large letters are clearly visible in footage from the scene and may contain expletives.
The girl’s body was found by passerby Nancy Eomurian, who told NBC she then saw the man get up off the pavement and start to walk away.
Killed: Although Trujillo was not Xiomara’s biological father, he had raised her since she was a baby
‘He had actually gotten up and started to leave, but he had blood on him,’ Mrs Eomurian said.
Though he was not Xiomara’s biological father, Trujillo had raised her since she was a few months old and was the only father she ever knew, her family told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Her mother, Graciela Fernandez, said she never saw any signs of physical or psychological abuse in her daughter.
She described Xiomara as happy and talkative – and a daddy’s girl.
Fernandez has five other children, aged eighteen months to 21. Trujillo, who is unemployed, is the biological father of the two youngest children.
One of Fernandez’s daughters said Xiomara was devoted to her father.
‘All he had to do was get mad at her, and she would cry,’ Alma said.
‘My mother would get mad and nothing. But if he got a little upset, she would be in tears.’
She added of the alleged abuse carried out against her little sister: ‘Maybe she was too young, she didn’t know how to tell us.’
Trujillo has been charged with five counts of oral copulation and sexual penetration with a child under the age of ten involving the victim.
Witness: Nancy Eomurian found the girl’s body and saw the stabbed man get up and walk away
The District Attorney’s Office filed a special circumstances murder charge – as the girl was killed because she was a witness to a crime – which would allow it to seek the death penalty in the case.
The criminal complaint claims the sexual assaults occurred between November 1, 2011 and April 28 – the day the girl’s lifeless body was found.
Trujillo has yet to enter a plea in the case but made a brief appearance in Long Beach Superior Court earlier this week.
Trujillo is being held without bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles.
He will appear at Los Angeles County Superior Court on May 22.
Graciela Fernandez and her family are struggling to raise $15,000 for the funeral arrangements and are holding fundraisers to cover the costs.