Earlier this week, a 12-year-old girl was discovered walking down the road in Tallapoosa, Alabama, after having chewed through her restraints to escape. She had broken her braces to gnaw through her bindings after being held captive by the man who killed her mother, Sandra Vazquez Ceja, and brother on July 24.
According to Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett, this led his department to discover the mutilated bodies of her mother and brother. The mother's boyfriend, 37-year-old Jose Paulino Pascual-Reyes, allegedly murdered the two victims. Afterward, he tied the girl to bed posts in the home, physically assaulted her and forced her to drink alcohol to keep her inhibited.
On August 1, a passerby discovered the girl walking along the roadway near the mobile home of horrors she had escaped. A driver spotted her, picked her up and called 911, waiting with her until officers arrived to assist. Paramedics transported the girl to the hospital while police investigated the scene, where they discovered her mother and sibling's remains.
Police have charged Pascual-Reyes with kidnapping, two counts of murder and two counts of corpse abuse, according to court records in the case. Investigators believe Pascual-Reyes smothered Ceja with a pillow and then dismembered her in an attempt to dispose of her body. Damage to the underpinning of the mobile home led them to believe Pascual-Reyes may have been planning to dispose of them beneath the dwelling.
Police identified Ceja's son only as a boy under 14. Police are accusing the suspect of killing the boy by striking and kicking him until he was dead. Like his mother's remains, his killer dismembered his body to conceal the crime.
The slayings occurred on July 24—the same day the escaped girl was taken captive. Detectives in the case say she had marks around her wrists consistent with being tied to the bed posts as she had claimed. The purpose of her abduction seems to have been sexually motivated, but the case is still under investigation.
Pascual-Reyes remains in jail without bond. A public defender was appointed to represent the accused but has not commented on the case. On Wednesday, August 3, the suspect was taken before a judge and ordered to remain in jail awaiting trial.
State and local police are still investigating the case, working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to a spokesperson for ICE, Pascual-Reyes was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol in December 2014 and removed less than ten days later. At some point after that, he re-entered the country illegally.
Ceja and her children migrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 2017. They were in the country legally but awaiting a hearing regarding their continued immigration status. It is currently unclear how or when Ceja met Pascual-Reyes, but he moved with her and the children to the trailer where the murders occurred in February of this year.
Sheriff Abbett said that the surviving victim, who has not been named due to her age, is currently in the Department of Human Resources (DHR) custody and doing as well as one would expect given the circumstances. He described her as a strong young lady.
Sheriff Abbett told reporters that this was the worst crime he's seen in his 53-year law enforcement career.