Herndon resident Margarita Gonzalez had been receiving dialysis treatments three times a week, so when she failed to show up for an appointment on Dec. 26, her family reported her missing to the Herndon Police. They had last seen her Christmas day around 6:30 p.m., when she told them she was getting a ride from a friend to run some errands in Sterling. However, no one saw her get into a vehicle.
As the police were beginning their missing person's search, which included putting Gonzalez' information on a national data base, contacting hospitals and jails, and knocking on neighbors' doors, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office was trying to identify a woman's body, which had been found dead at a private parking lot on Shaw Road nearly four hours earlier.
"The street officer began working on the missing persons. Basically, that means we circulated a photo throughout the station so everyone knows who the missing person is, and called the hospitals and jails," said Sgt. Jerry Keys of the Herndon Police Department. "We didn't even get to the point of releasing the information to the press."
LOUDOUN INVESTIGATORS were able to match the description of Gonzalez to the body that had been found. Herndon's missing person's report had become a murder investigation.
On Thursday, Jan. 15, Loudoun investigators arrested Mauricio Cerritos, 23, also of Herndon, and charged him with first-degree murder in the Gonzalez case. He is being held without bond at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center and his next schedule court appearance is slated for Feb. 26, said Kraig Troxell, the public information officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.
"He was arrested early Thursday morning," Troxell said. "Early Wednesday, we executed three simultaneous search warrants in Herndon, conducting interviews and further investigation."
Troxell said that since the investigation is on-going, the warrants have been sealed. He did say, however, there was the possibility for further arrests in the case.
Herndon police had assisted in the execution of the warrants and subsequent interviews, but Loudoun is heading up the investigation.
TROXELL SAID the motive is believed to be robbery, because Gonzalez had been known to carry cash and jewelry she had bought from a wholesaler in Washington D.C. He said it is unclear what Cerritos' relationship was to Gonzalez other than that he "was known to her."
Gonzalez' death has been determined to be asphyxiation due to compression of her neck, according to a Sheriff's Office press release.
She immigrated to the United States 10 years ago from El Salvador and had recently been working to change her immigration status. In addition, she had learned her brother in El Salvador was a donor match for a kidney transplant and had planned to travel to the U.S. for the operation. Troxell said it was unknown if a date for the transplant had been set. He said Gonzalez' body had been flown back to El Salvador for burial.