A Santa Ana woman's young daughter was reunited with her family in the U.S. Thursday after the mother was found dead in Tijuana last week, and her boyfriend was arrested as a homicide suspect, investigators said.
Though the case is being investigated by authorities in Mexico, Santa Ana police have been involved since 29-year-old Monica Tapia Alvarado was reported missing by family members in Orange County on Christmas Eve, according to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
About two weeks before the holiday, Alvarado and her 2-year-old daughter traveled to Mexico to visit Alvarado's boyfriend, who resides in Tijuana, Bertagna said.
Alvarado left her child with her boyfriend, 29-year-old Alexis Jesus Alanis, and came back to the U.S. Her family last saw her before she returned to Mexico on Dec. 21 to pick up her daughter so that she could celebrate Christmas in Southern California, the corporal said.
On Dec. 24, family members, including Alvarado's 13-year-old daughter, contacted police in Santa Ana, saying they hadn't heard from her and were concerned.
Although she was last known to be in Mexico, Santa Ana detectives began working with Mexican officials in investigating her disappearance since "she's a U.S. citizen and a member of our community," Bertagna said.
Authorities suspected Alanis' involvement but were initially unable to locate him.
Then on Dec. 29, Mexican investigators said they'd located a house he was renting a room in. When they went to the home, they found Alvarado to be the victim of a homicide, Bertagna said.
The corporal did not have information on the victim's manner of death or the condition her body was found in.
A witness told officials they'd seen Alanis flee the crime scene with the child.
Alanis was still with the girl when he was taken into custody on Dec. 31. She was placed into a childcare facility in Mexico until she was able to be returned to family in Santa Ana Thursday night.
Local officials are now working with their Mexican counterparts to secure the return of Alvarado's body, though an autopsy and other investigative measures will be conducted in Mexico.