Suspect Arrested in Cold Case Murder of Ariz. Girl Exactly 20 Years Later

Sergio Francisco Reyes, 37, faces charges of sexual assault and 1st-degree murder in connection with the July 10, 2004 killing of 15-year-old Elena Lasswell

<p>MCSO; Phoenix Police</p> Sergio Francisco Reyes (left); Elena Lasswell

MCSO; Phoenix Police

Sergio Francisco Reyes (left); Elena Lasswell

Exactly 20 years after a teenage girl was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in her Phoenix home, a suspect has been arrested in connection with the killing, authorities said.

Sergio Francisco Reyes, 37, was extradited from Mexico on July 10 and booked into Maricopa County Jail on multiple charges including sexual assault and 1st-degree murder, the Phoenix Police Department said in a press release shared with PEOPLE. The charges stem from the July 10, 2004 killing of 15-year-old Elena Lasswell.

Reyes is being held on $1.5 million bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for July 17, online booking records show. It’s unclear if he has entered a plea or retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.

On this day 20 years ago, around 8 p.m. local time, officers responded to a home along North 21st Drive and were directed to a room where they found Lasswell, the release states. According to police, emergency life-saving measures were attempted, but she did not survive her injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. The release did not share any details regarding Lasswell’s cause of death.

The case was then turned over to homicide detectives, who were unable to identify any suspects, leading the case to turn cold, police said.

In 2012, investigators used “DNA collection techniques” and identified a profile that matched Reyes, according to the release. By March 2013, the DNA evidence was processed and police felt confident enough to identify Reyes as a primary suspect.

Reyes was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury in 2014, police said. Since he was living in Mexico at the time, authorities began the extradition process. With help from the U.S. Marshals Service, authorities were able to find and arrest Reyes on July 10, according to the release.

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“It’s been 20 years to the day [that] 15-year-old Elena Lasswell was murdered inside her home,” Phoenix Police Detective Dominick Roestenberg said in a video shared to the department’s page on X, formerly known as Twitter. “So it’s a big day not only for the Phoenix Police Department but more importantly, Elena’s family. They’ve been waiting 20 years for justice.”

“So, it took a while. But through perseverance, hard work and dedication, we were able to get Sergio Reyes back to Phoenix to face charges,” he concluded.

Lasswell's aunt, Katie Tourville, told local outlet Fox 10 that the family is glad an arrest has been made and that they never lost hope.

"Knowing that someone is being held responsible feels awesome," Tourville told the news outlet. "It's been a long haul, and thank god for Phoenix PD. They have been absolutely amazing. I just really felt that they were on the right trail, and that they would get it. I just didn't know when."

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