VISALIA (AP) — Authorities were keeping mum Wednesday on what led them to arrest a Central California man on suspicion of murder in the death of his teenage stepson, whose body was found days after he was reported missing.
Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas would only say that evidence and investigation led them to arrest 32-year-old Miguel Angel Villegas Pacheco on Tuesday in the death of Dameian "Luke" Gulley.
The 14-year-old's body was found partially covered in Sequoia National Park by an employee Nov. 21, Mestas said.
"Due to location of the body and the evidence on scene, we knew there was foul play at that time," Mestas said at a news conference. "As the investigation continued, it became apparent that Miguel Angel Villegas Pacheco was responsible for his death and he was subsequently arrested."
Pacheco was being held without bail at the Tulare County Jail and could appear in court as early as Monday. It wasn't known if he has retained a lawyer.
Authorities would not say if the teen's autistic condition may have played a role in his death.
Pacheco and the boy's mother, Andrea Villegas, asked local media for help finding the boy after Dameian failed to show up for middle school Nov. 18.
The couple said the boy took the same route to school every day. They put up numerous signs throughout town, including in many parks.
The FBI soon joined police in the investigation. Authorities repeatedly interviewed family and friends before Pacheco was arrested late Tuesday. The teen's mother is not considered a suspect, said Sgt. Osvaldo Dominguez, a Visalia police spokesman.
Dominguez would not say if Villegas is cooperating with investigators.
Pacheco had said last week that the police didn't handle the case the way the family wanted. The family insisted the boy hadn't run away from home. Police said they were following protocol and needed time to investigate the case.
Police searched the boy's room and found evidence that suggested he considered running away, the family said. But the family remained insistent that the boy followed the same route to school every morning and wouldn't have veered off course.