A Houston man is accused of murdering the mother of his child because he did not want to pay child support, according to court documents.
Jose Valentine Noriega, 37, was charged with murder in the death of Rocio Montoya.
Noriega was scheduled to appear before a Harris County judge Thursday, but was a no-show in court.
Investigators say he lured Montoya away from her home in the early-morning hours of July 21, then beat and strangled her before setting her on fire.
Montoya's body was found around 5:15 a.m. in a field near a retention pond in the 6600 block of Olson Lane, not far from her home. A passerby called police after spotting the fire.
Police said she was severely burned, and had a jagged type of wound penetrating her left cheek.
Before Montoya's body was identified, her family feared the worst. Her cousin, Cynthia, said she and her family found Montoya's rosary lying in the grass not far from where investigators found her body.
They also knew she had a troubling relationship with Noriega, the last person she was seen with.
Montoya's family members said she and Noriega were disputing over child support payments.
They said Montoya told them Noriega threatened "something bad was going to happen to her" if she kept trying to get child support from him, documents state.
Family members said Noriega called Montoya around 11 p.m. Sunday, saying that he wanted to see his child, but Montoya told him the baby was sleeping. He then allegedly called from outside the home around 1 a.m., asking again to see their baby, according to court documents.
Montoya informed him the child was still sleeping, but offered to show him some pictures. Montoya told her family she was going to ride with Noriega "over by the big trees" and went outside to meet him.
Family members said Montoya climbed into Noriega's red Suburban and they drove to the area near the retention pond. That was the last time anyone had heard from her.
Investigators interviewed several residents in the area.
One of them reported seeing a red Suburban parked at the pond around 1:15 a.m. and another woman, who was smoking a cigarette outside her residence around 4 a.m., said she heard a woman screaming and rustling in the brush.
An autopsy determined the cause of death was strangulation and blunt force trauma. Montoya's identity was confirmed by her fingerprints.
Investigators contacted the Attorney General's Office and learned there was a child support case against Noriega.
Investigators felt with the threats, the child support case and the fact that Noriega was the last person seen with Montoya, they had enough evidence to move forward with charges.
Montoya leaves behind two young children—a 3-year-old daughter and a 6-month-old son.
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