Alexandra ‘Alex’ Anaya was 13 years old when she went missing on August 13, 2005. Alex lived in the 4000 block of Pine Avenue in Hammond, Indiana, where she lived with her mother Sandra, and her sisters Roxanne and Rony. She was a student at Clark Middle School.
An article on medium.com says that Alex was academically competent, a talented soccer player and a great lover of animals, volunteering at the local animal shelter and an aspiring veterinarian.
Her mother Sandra has spoken about how “beautiful and sweet” she was, preparing to go into the eighth grade and playing volleyball, soccer and running cross country.
“She wanted a ferret so bad,” Sandra said.
Alex’s sister Roxanne has spoken to the media about her:
“She was basically like my mom. I mean, My mom worked two jobs, she was always at work, so [Alex] would take care of us,” she said of herself and her twin sister, Rony.
“She would feed us, teach us stuff. She taught us our colors, our ABCs, our numbers… I know we would get on her nerves. She had to take us everywhere she went, cause my mom was at work. We were her annoying little sisters,” she said.
On Friday, August 12th, Alex ate White Castle with her mother late that night. They went home and her mother ended up going out again in the early hours of August 13 – some sources say this was at about 4am. Alex told her mother at the time that she was going to bed. When Sandra got home again at 6.45am, Alex was gone. She usually shared a bedroom with her younger sisters, and her bed was empty.
“I went inside and she wasn’t inside her room… I started getting worried, ‘cause she would never just leave,” Sandra said.
Sandra has said the door was unlocked when she got home which was very unusual. She remembered that she had locked the door before leaving the house and that Alex was usually very conscious of making sure the door was locked before she went to bed.
Sandra initially thought that Alex may have gone to the corner store near their home. She began to walk there to check for Alex but stopped when she saw Alex’s shoes were sitting on the steps outside their home.
When Sandra contacted police, they said she believed she had likely run away. Sandra said that she almost started to believe that herself, although she couldn’t think of any reason that Alex would have wanted to leave.
“I don’t know why she would [run away], but I was like, well she’s a teenager, and we’ve all been there,” she said in a 2018 interview with Case Files Chicago.
Alex’s family started their own search for her. Her sister Roxanne said
“We were up whole nights just going through the streets looking for her,” she told The Daily Beast.
This info about their search is from the Daily Beast:
They contacted all the teen’s friends, went to their houses, and put the word out in the neighborhood that they needed to find their big sister.
But even then, there seemed to be more-or-less innocuous explanations for the seventh-grader’s absence. Maybe she had just entered the rebellious phase of adolescence. Maybe she was at a friend’s house, and they were hiding her.
“We didn’t think anything of it, we were just like, ‘Oh, Alex is being bad. Where did she go?’ We thought she was going to come home,” Roxanne said.
“What I remember is just that one day she was here, and then one day she wasn’t, and we were looking for her, my mom was putting posters everywhere, looking everywhere, taking phone calls,” Roxanne said.
As the hours went on, everyone became more concerned. The Hammond Police held a press conference “We’re concerned,” then-Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said. “She has a decent relationship with her mom. There’s no evidence they were fighting, so the circumstances are unusual.”
Three days after Alex disappeared – we are now at August 16 – a family was on their boat on the Little Calumet River and they spotted what they believed to be a mannequin floating in the water. They called authorities because they were worried about the floating mass being a danger to other boats.
When authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that the mannequin was actually a human torso that was missing its head, legs and arms. It had been weighted down with straps and chains in an attempt to avoid discovery.
The body had to be identified using DNA as obviously no fingerprints or dentals were available to use. Sandra gave her DNA to the detectives.
“My sister said, ‘I don’t know why you want it, because that’s not my daughter,’” Alexandra’s aunt, Martha Urbina, told NWI Times. “But I knew because of the location.”
The DNA took weeks to come back but eventually, the body was identified as being Alexandra Anaya.
“I got a phone call, and she just said, ‘Unfortunately, it is your daughter,’” Sandra told Case Files Chicago. “I really don’t remember a lot. I just know that the officers picked me up off the floor.”
Alex’s sister Roxanne has said that she immediately knew something was wrong when her cousin, who was babysitting her and her sister, received a phone call and began to cry uncontrollably. Then, she said, her mom “came home and she just told us that she knows we’re little and she knows we’re not going to understand … but Alex passed away and she wasn’t going to be with us anymore.”
Police have never been able to find the rest of Alex’s remains.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Alex’s aunt Martha said. “My sister wants to see her face and her long hair.”
Her family has understandably struggled with not finding all of Alex and have spoken to the media about that.
“Her hands are somewhere else. Her head is somewhere else.’
“We have her ashes but we only have certain parts of her body. We’re missing her head, we’re missing her legs and her arms,” Roxanne told the Daily Beast.
Following an autopsy, french fries were found undigested in Alex’s stomach. This was part of the meal that she had eaten at White Castle on the night before her death.
The autopsy also showed that Alex had been sexually assaulted.
“The real horrifying stuff is what he did to her, I just couldn’t believe he was that vicious,” retired Hammond Police Lt. Ron Johnson said.
Alex had been wearing a gold religious medallion at the time she disappeared and police theorized that the killer may have held on to that as a type of trophy.
Sylvia Van Witzenburg, a retired Chicago Police detective has spoken to the media about the case.
“All that we ever had was her torso,” she told The Daily Beast. “We never found what he cut her up with. I’m sure it was in the bottom of the river, too.”
At the time, Sandra believed that her ex partner Rudolfo Heredia was involved in Alex’s murder. Rudolfo was the biological father of Alex’s younger twin sisters, Roxanne and Rony.
Sandra said that Rudolfo was abusive and that she left him after Alex said that he had molested her since she was 7 years old. The river where Alex was discovered was just 1.5 blocks from Rudolfo’s home.
Stalking charges against Rudolfo were filed shortly after Alex was murdered.
This info is from the Daily Beast article on this case:
In a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Indiana at the time, prosecutors alleged that Rudolfo had been stalking Sandra Anaya prior to her daughter’s murder. Prosecutors noted the teen’s remains were found a few blocks from his residence in Riverdale, Illinois. In a September 2005 interview with Chicago police detectives, Rudolfo admitted to “following and watching” Sandra Anaya at her home on several occasions, and to making a copy of the key to enter the residence, according to the complaint.
The Medium article on this case states that Rudolfo allegedly used to stand on his car so that he could see into Alex’s bedroom and that he was also found actually inside their home. It is suspected he had duplicate keys made.
More info from the Daily Beast:
The complaint listed five calls made from Rudolfo’s home telephone number to Sandra Anaya’s residence on the night of Alexandra Anaya’s disappearance. Sandra Anaya told investigators she had broken up with Heredia the past spring after Alexandra Anaya told her he’d been sexually abusing her for years, according to the criminal complaint. He was never charged with any sex crimes.
Rudolfo was charged with “travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of killing, injuring, harassing, or intimidating Sandra Anaya” and he pleaded not guilty to the charge. In January 2006, a jury found him not guilty. Alexandra Anaya’s murder had not been brought up during the trial, by either the defense or prosecution.
In 2016 (eleven years after the murder), the FBI and the Chicago Police Department announced that they were creating a task force to take on Alex’s case.
“We’re going to bring justice to this crime,” FBI Special Agent Courtney Corbett said.
“We continue to seek new information regarding her murder and offer a $10,000 reward for information that may lead to an arrest and conviction,” FBI spokesperson Siobhan Johnson said.
FBI special agent Anderson said that Alex’s case is “one of the most heinous murders involving a child.” He has also stated that authorities “have reason to believe that there are individuals with information pertinent to this investigation, who for whatever reason, have not come forward.”
”We have been reviewing leads and re-interviewing individuals associated with this case. The DNA evidence has been well preserved, and we plan to use enhanced technology to exploit that evidence. We want to bring justice to Alex and other victims like her, and their families.”
Lt Ron Johnson is now retired and he spoke about the case to the media in 2021.
“It was definitely the most stressful and painful of my 33 years,” he told The Daily Beast.
“The guy’s still walking the streets or whatever he’s doing now,” he said. “And I’m sure this is not the first time he did it, if he did this kind of vicious crime. It can’t be the first time he did it, ’cause you don’t just do something like that out of the blue, you know.”
Alex’s sister Roxanne has spoken about the fear she felt following the murder. “I always had this idea that he was going to come back and he was going to do something to us,” she told The Daily Beast.
And while she said she “got to be more accepting” of what happened as she got older, that haunted feeling has persisted, especially now that she’s back in the shadow of her sister’s murder—and potentially on the turf of the murderer.
“What if one day I just ran into him, or I just see him, would he recognize me?”
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