2 men charged with murder of 12-year-old girl found in creek

HOUSTON — Police on Thursday arrested two men after a 12-year-old girl was found strangled to death in a shallow creek in north Houston on Monday.

Johan Jose Martinez-Rangel, 22, and Franklin Pena, 26, face capital murder charges in the death of Jocelyn Nungaray. They were arrested Thursday at their shared apartment near the area where Jocelyn’s body was found.

Alexis Nungaray, Jocelyn’s mother, told KRIV on Thursday that hearing that the men had been detained “was like the greatest news to hear this morning, to be wakened up with.”

“It still doesn’t register,” she said of her daughter’s death. “I can’t believe it’s her, it will take some sinking in.”

Police said that surveillance footage showed Martinez-Rangel and Pena at a restaurant on Sunday evening, a few hours before they met with Jocelyn. They walked together to a convenience store and then to a bridge where police say Jocelyn was murdered.

Houston Police Lt. Stephen Hope said investigators found evidence connected with the killing at Martinez-Rangel and Pena’s apartment, although he declined to elaborate.

“We’ve worked really, really hard to get to this point, but a mountain of work stands before us to be able to document and look through everything that we have left,” he said Thursday.

Police believe the incident took place over a few hours, with Jocelyn meeting Martinez-Rangel and Pena and chatting with them around midnight.

Investigators believe Jocelyn snuck out of her family’s apartment after 10 p.m. Sunday, KPRC reported. Authorities said her boyfriend was the last person to speak with her on the phone and that he heard her speaking with two men at the gas station before they hung up, according to the news network.

Authorities continue to investigate whether Jocelyn knew either man before the night of her death, although her mother told KTRK that she didn’t think they knew each other.

“She’s not one to be aggressive and be like, ‘Stop talking to me,’” she said. “She is very shy and quiet and keeps to herself. I felt like she maybe didn’t want to be rude, and that’s why she was pacing back and forth and safely get away from the situation. She unfortunately got caught with the wrong people at the wrong time.”

A possible motive for the killing was not immediately known. Acting Police Chief Larry Satterwhite said Thursday that police have asked for a sexual assault kit to be performed on Jocelyn.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire on Thursday urged a judge to order that Martinez-Rangel and Pena be held without bond. They are reportedly natives of Venezuela and it remained unclear Friday whether they were in the country legally.

“If there was ever a circumstance where you do not give someone bail, this is it,” Whitmire said. “There are circumstances allowed that you can prevent bail. Taking (into) consideration flight risk. Taking (into consideration the) severity of this crime.”

Authorities continue to investigate.

Comments on this article