Detectives Make Arrest in Teen's Murder

Anna Hernandez, 14, was found dead in a canyon in San Diego's Grant Hill area on Nov. 18 -- five days after her family says she vanished

Homicide detectives made an arrest Friday night of a juvenile for being an accessory to the murder of San Diego teenager Anna Hernandez.

The juvenile suspect was booked into Juvenile Hall. Due to the young suspect's age, police cannot release the juvenile's name without the permission of the Juvenile Court, the San Diego Polcie Deparment (SDPD) said.

Meanwhile, the (SDPD) has also identified Daniel Flores, 19, as a suspect in the killing of Hernandez. His whereabouts are currently unknown and he remains at large.

Police confirmed Saturday morning that the case against the unnamed juvenile suspect has been handed over to the San Diego District Attorney's office.

The case out of Grant Hill has been in the spotlight all week.

After many days with very few details of the case released, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) held a news briefing Wednesday to discuss the killing of Anna Hernandez, whose body was found dumped in a ravine one week ago in Grant Hill in a puzzling case with few details.

SDPD Lt. Mike Hastings briefly discussed the investigation concerning the disturbing homicide of Hernandez.

On Nov. 18, the teen's lifeless body was found wrapped in a blanket in a canyon at 29th and Market streets – just behind an apartment complex in the Grant Hill area where the girl lived. SDPD investigators said the body was decomposed and homicide detectives launched an investigation, but did not immediately identify the body as the teenage girl.

Seven days later, Lt. Hastings said there were no leads in the case and no arrests in the ongoing investigation.

"The investigation continues, including the processing of many items of evidence," Lt. Hastings explained. "The homicide team has served search warrants, and conducted many interviews in the last seven days. Forensic evidence sometimes takes a significant amount of time to process."

The lieutenant said the work on this case is being "tirelessly" completed by SDPD investigators. He expressed his condolences for the family of the slain teen.

Anna – along with her friend, Nelly Espinoza, 12 – were last seen in Grant Hill on Nov. 13, a community less than three miles northeast of downtown San Diego. Both girls vanished and, while Anna’s body was discovered five days later, Nelly remained missing. It is unknown if the girls were together that day.

Nelly Espinoza was found safe in Tijuana Friday afternoon by Mexican authorities. She was positively identified by her grandfather, who lives in Mexico, before Baja California State Preventative Police brought her to the U.S.-Mexico border to be turned over to San Diego police.

She was reunited with her family in San Diego, the SDPD confirmed.

A third girl may be tied to this case as well, Janeth Mendoza, 16, who has not been seen by her loved ones since Oct. 28, police said. Janeth is described as 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. She has several tattoos, including a Chargers bolt on her neck, the word "Bella" on her right forearm and "Perla" on her left forearm.

Janeth was last seen in the 3000 block of Webster Street, according to police.

At Wednesday's briefing, Lt. Hastings said investigators consider both Nelly and Janeth runaways.

While the girls are believed to be in Mexico, Lt. Hastings said police do not know the exact whereabouts of either girl. He said Nelly did call a family member in San Diego recently to say she was alright.

"She stated she was fine and if anyone tried to look for her, she would flee deeper into Mexico," said Lt. Hastings.

He said police want to speak with both Nelly and Jnneth because the girls may know important information about what may have happened leading up to Anna's killing, perhaps who the teen may have been hanging out with and where she may have been going.

Lt. Hastings said neither girl is considered a person of interest in the homicide at this point.

He said police released bulletins for both Nelly and Janeth on Nov. 19, citing each girl as a "missing juvenile at risk." The SDPD bulletin for Nelly can be seen here, while the bulletin for Janeth can be seen here.

He said San Diego police are in contact with Mexican authorities regarding any potential breaks in this case.

The lieutenant said anyone with information is urged to contact SDPD investigators at (619) 531-2000.

When asked if this case is being handled differently or if details are being kept from the public, Lt. Hastings said police are revealing information as the case unfolds.

“We do the best we can. We have to make sure the integrity of the investigation is held together,” he said, wrapping up the briefing.

Meanwhile, SDPD Lt. Manuel Del Toro answered questions for Spanish media, assuring the community does not have to worry about a dangerous suspect out there searching to harm or kill other young victims.

When asked if the police department is ignoring this case due to the community in which it took place, Lt. del Toro said that is not the case and said the investigation is being handled with every possible resource by the SDPD in the same manner as any other homicide investigation.

He said police will do everything to seek justice for Hernandez.

On Monday, the SDPD issued a press release that confirmed Anna died from a gunshot wound to the torso. Her death was ruled a homicide, but no further details about her manner of death were released at the time.

NBC 7 spoke with Anna’s aunt Monday who said the family knew the teen was lost and had been kidnapped, but one asked for ransom in the kidnapping.

NBC 7 also spoke with Nelly’s family who said they were desperately searching for the girl, praying for her safe return. The family created a missing persons flier for Nelly and gave it to authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, who began distributing it this week.

Nelly’s mother, Maria Velasco, said Nelly and Anna were friends and lived in the same neighborhood, but Velasco isn’t sure if the girls were together the night they vanished.

Velasco told NBC 7 she believed her daughter was alive. She said Nelly did not have a cell phone or a boyfriend and liked to spend time with her friends at Memorial Park. She said it’s unlike her daughter to disappear without a trace.

Meanwhile, Anna’s heartbroken family and friends will hold a funeral for the slain teen Wednesday at One in Christ Church in National City.

An emotional candlelight vigil was held for the teen Tuesday night as well where mourners called for answers in the mysterious case, including Anna’s former teacher who described the high school freshman as a vibrant girl with a bright future.

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