A team of detectives is searching for a suspect in the savage killing of a Tennessee school girl.
“This is a horrible, brutal thing,” Metro Nashville Police Sgt. David Kautzman said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I’ve never seen anything this brutal in my entire career.”
The mother and siblings of 12-year-old Yhoana Arteaga found her unresponsive when they entered their Goodlettsville home at 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 10, according to authorities. Paramedics responding to a 911 call were unable to resuscitate the child and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Yhoana, who was a seventh-grade student at Liberty Collegiate Academy in Nashville, is described as “kind, polite, caring, fun, intelligent and beautiful” on a GoFundMe page created to help cover her funeral expenses.
“She will be remembered as a wonderful daughter and great friend to all who knew her,” the page says.
On the day of her death, the preteen had been home alone, recovering from a leg injury she sustained while roller-skating. The girl’s mother last saw her alive at about 12:30 p.m. when they ate lunch together before her mom returned to work, police said.
Later that day, at about 5:30 p.m., the mother received a text message from Yhoana’s phone. The message, according to investigators, said someone was knocking on the door of their home at the Hillview Acres Mobile Home Park.
What happened to Yhoana after that text was sent is numbing to consider, according to authorities.
“An examination of the crime scene, as well as autopsy results, shows that Yhoana was brutally murdered,” Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said in a press release this week. “Without being overly specific, there was blunt force trauma to her body.”
There was no sign of forced entry into the residence, leading police to suspect that Yhoana knew her assailant or that her assailant somehow knew she was home alone.
Investigators aren’t revealing whether the girl was sexually assaulted, but authorities have said her clothing was in disarray.
“The killer knows what he did,” Aaron said at the press conference. “There are details of the scene being withheld to help police vet tips.”
A prayer vigil has been planned for 8 p.m. Thursday, outside Yhoana’s home at 1229 Old Dickerson Pike. An organization that supports the families of murder victims, Partners in the Struggle, is hosting the event, according to Chattanooga’s WRCB-TV.
Anyone with information in the killing of Yhoana Arteaga is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463. Callers can remain anonymous.
“We believe there are persons in this community who have knowledge of a person who may be responsible for this,” Aaron said. “Perhaps the person responsible has spoken to others, has bragged. If that’s the case, please, for the family’s sake, for the sake of this 12-year-old deceased girl, let us know.”