Relatives made the horrifying discovery — 33-year-old Carolina Flores had been brutally stabbed to death in her apartment in Southeast Texas and her 6-week-old baby girl, Shamali, was nowhere in sight.
Detectives in Houston speculated that the mother may have been killed by a woman who had lost a child and wanted to pass off Shamali as her own.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters everything police theorized “turned out to be true.”
Hours after authorities said Shamali had been found alive and unharmed in a different apartment in the city, they announced a suspect, 28-year-old Erika Jisela Miranda-Alvarez, had been arrested and charged with capital murder in the mother’s death.
UPDATE: This is the mug shot of Erika J. Miranda-Alvarez, 28, who our investigators arrested this morning at an apartment at 9707 South Gessner. Minutes ago, she was formally charged with capital murder in this ongoing investigation. #hounews pic.twitter.com/k6EOZNCrIt
— Houston Police (@houstonpolice) December 21, 2017
Acevedo said Miranda-Alvarez had recently had a miscarriage, which she had been attempting to hide from her boyfriend, when she killed Flores on Tuesday and then took Shamali.
Police said the district attorney will decide whether to also charge Miranda-Alvarez with kidnapping.
“We mourn for that mom that will never see her daughter grow up, will never see her daughter walk, run the first time — the first time your child tells you ‘I love you,’” Acevedo told reporters.
But he added that police had found the child.
“And that’s the most important part,” he said.
It was unclear whether Miranda-Alvarez has an attorney in the case.
The police chief urged members of the community on Wednesday to come forward with information to help find Shamali.
Shamali was initially described by authorities as 11 months old girl, but police later confirmed that she is just 6 weeks old.
“This woman deserves justice,” Acevedo said at a news conference, holding up a photo of the slain mother. “Her family deserves justice. And her child deserves to be back home with her loved ones.”
Acevedo described the mother’s slaying as a “brutal homicide” and theorized the killer might be a woman who is familiar with the family and may have hoped to present the infant as her own. The police chief said later the suspect, Miranda-Alvarez, who was an acquaintance of the family, was due to have a baby in January but had miscarried; he said that she continued to fake her pregnancy.
Acevedo added that Miranda-Alvarez did not break in Tuesday when she allegedly killed Flores and then took child.
Less than 48 hours after a frantic search for the missing infant, detectives saw a man and woman holding a child outside an apartment in Houston and determined that the child was Shamali, according to the police chief.
Authorities said Thursday on social media that the infant “appears unharmed & is being checked at an area hospital as precaution.”
“We’re ecstatic Baby Shamali Flores was found by our dedicated @houstonpolice guardians,” Acevedo tweeted that morning. “Although we mourn the loss of her mother Carolina, we celebrate her recovery.”
Shamali is currently in state custody, police said.
Authorities said Miranda-Alvarez’s boyfriend has not been charged with a crime.
The baby’s father, who was initially said to be a person of interest in the slaying, was ruled out as a suspect after he was found in San Antonio, and authorities said he was cooperating with their investigation.
AMBER Alert Discontinued for Shamali Flores from Houston Texas pic.twitter.com/27PEPjGgQP
— Texas Alerts (@TX_Alerts) December 21, 2017