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Body identified as Texas baby sitter, 15

By the CNN Wire Staff
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TX teen babysitter was strangled
  • Elizabeth Ennen, 15, was missing since January 5; her body was found near Lubbock
  • Police said she was baby-sitting at a motel for the man arrested in case
  • Humberto Salinas Jr. was a friend of the Ennen family, police said
  • Police said Salinas misdirected their initial investigation
  • Lubbock

(CNN) -- A body found near Lubbock, Texas, has been identified as that of a baby sitter seen in a motel surveillance video with a longtime family friend charged in the case, authorities said Wednesday.

The medical examiner identified the remains found Monday about seven miles outside of the city as belonging to Elizabeth Ennen, 15. She had been strangled, Capt. Greg Stevens told CNN.

Stevens told reporters that Humberto Salinas Jr., 45, was being held on a $250,000 bond on an aggravated kidnapping charge. Police are talking with the district attorney about taking a murder charge to the grand jury, he said.

Elizabeth was reported missing after baby-sitting at a motel for Salinas, who was a friend of the Ennen family and the father of her boyfriend, police said. The girl did baby-sitting jobs several times for Salinas at the motel, where he lived, police said.

Stevens would not say whether Salinas was cooperating, but he indicated the remains were not found by chance or through a tip. Elizabeth was reported missing January 5, and Salinas was charged in the case on Friday.

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A relative of Salinas declined comment when contacted by CNN Wednesday.

Stevens defended the time it took to conduct the investigation and arrest Salinas, saying the suspect was a family friend who deceived the family and police on the girl's whereabouts. But police believe Elizabeth was dead by the time they got a report that she was missing, Stevens said.

"They [the family] trusted this guy to speak ... to the officer," said the captain, who would not comment on a possible motive.

Lily Huckabee, Elizabeth's aunt, told HLN's Nancy Grace that the girl's mother, Virginia, "is holding on the best she can...."

Salinas was married and "always presented himself very respectful," said Huckabee, who described Elizabeth as loving, caring, shy and interested in music.

Police have a January 4 surveillance video of Elizabeth being taken from the Carriage House Inn, but they did not know of it when they began their investigation, Stevens told CNN. According to an arrest affidavit, the video shows Salinas holding the teen's arm and leaving the motel, he said.

"We believe he killed her while he was gone with her," Stevens said.

Salinas went to Elizabeth's home and talked with her mother early January 5, police said. He helped her file an initial report, the captain said.

According to that report, Salinas said he brought Elizabeth home from the motel and went back to get her purse. When he showed up at the house, the mother asked about her daughter's whereabouts. The suspect indicated Elizabeth might have left the neighborhood with his son, believed to be 18 or 19, Stevens said.

"He began misdirecting the investigation, leading it in the opposite direction of the truth," the officer said.

Police initially classified the case as a runaway, but within days learned the son had a solid alibi. They began looking at the elder Salinas, who initially gave another location for the baby-sitting, said Stevens, adding police for much of the investigation believed Elizabeth had disappeared from her home.

"We came around 180 degrees," said Stevens, adding an investigator suggested they check with the Carriage House Inn on possible video. Officers saw the video on the same day they arrested the suspect, police said.

Stevens defended his department from criticism on the time it took to make an arrest and find the body.

"These (type of cases) can often take years," he said.

A candlelight vigil in Elizabeth's memory is scheduled for Thursday night at Monterey High School, where she attended, CNN affiliate KCBD in Lubbock reported. Her funeral is Friday.

Diena Thompson, the mother of a girl found dead in a Georgia landfill, told HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell she has issued financial assistance from the Somer Thompson Foundation to Elizabeth Ennen's mother.

Thompson's daughter, Somer, was taken from her Florida neighborhood in October 2009. The child was raped and killed and her body left under a pile of trash.

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.

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