Calif. Girl Was Found Slain and Partially-Clothed in Ravine in 1996 — and Suspect Was Just Arrested

This week, investigators in California announced that newly-developed DNA evidence helped them crack a nearly 25-year-old cold case, and that they had arrested a Texas man in connection with the 1996 death of Gladys Arellano, a teenage girl whose remains were recovered from the bottom of a ravine in Malibu.

Jose Luis Garcia, 43, was arrested in September. The Dallas man was extradited to Los Angeles County last week.

Garcia was 18 at the time of the death of Arellano, who lived in Boyle Heights.

Arellano's partially-clothed body was found at the bottom of a ravine in the Topanga Canyon area of Malibu back on Jan. 30, 1996, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

An autopsy on Arellano, who would have turned 42 on Saturday, showed the teen had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death, the statement said.

Detectives had a DNA profile created, using evidence recovered from the ravine. That DNA profile was loaded into the California state database as well as the federal system.

For years, authorities waited for a hit.

Garcia was arrested in Los Angeles in late 2019 on suspicion of domestic assault. At that time, a sample of his DNA was collected and entered into the state database.

The U.S. Marshals Service task force in Dallas took him into custody on Sept. 29.

"Thank you for not giving up on our Gladys," said the victim's niece, Samantha Moreno, during a press conference on the arrest. "She had a beautiful soul. She had such big dreams for her life. It was extremely painful for all of us to lose her and live through 24 1/2 years and not know who killed her."

Garcia was arraigned in Van Nuys on Monday on a charge of murder.

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He has yet to enter a formal plea, and information on his attorney was unavailable Thursday.

His bail has been set at $1 million.

The case was handled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau-Unsolved Case Unit, which is comprised of twelve retired homicide detectives who returned to work on a part-time basis to solve stale cases.

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