Man arrested after 16-year-old Texas cheerleader found dead in bathtub

Photo of Lizabeth Medina, a 16-year-old cheerleader from Edna, Texas, who was found dead on Dec. 5, 2023. GoFundMe/Ana Medina

A suspect accused of murdering a 16-year-old cheerleader whose body was found days earlier in her bathtub has been arrested.

Police in Edna, Texas, say they found Lizabeth Medina dead last week on Dec. 5 after being called to an apartment building in reference to an “unresponsive juvenile.” In a news release, police confirmed they were looking into Medina’s death as capital murder, a category of murder in which the perpetrator is eligible for the death penalty.

(Details about Medina’s specific cause of death were not released.)

The Edna Police Department then released photos of a suspect in Medina’s murder investigation. Authorities wrote that they were looking for a man seen wearing a black “Volcom” hoodie driving a silver Ford Taurus.

A US$5,000 reward was offered for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

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While the suspect remained at large, local police partnered with Texas Rangers and other outside agencies to provide extra patrols in the small city of Edna, which is home to about 6,000 residents.

A day after photos of the suspect were released, police apprehended him.

Rafael Govea Romero, an “undocumented male,” according to Edna police, was arrested on Saturday for capital murder. He was transported to Jackson County Jail.

“Although Romero is apprehended, we recognized Lizabeth’s family and friends are grieving and will still need support from the community,” Edna police wrote in a news release.

“The citizens of Edna can now sleep in peace!”

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Medina’s mother Jacqueline revealed that she was the one who found her daughter dead in the bathtub of their apartment.

Jacqueline woke up her daughter that day at 6 a.m. to get her ready for cheer practice. The single mom then went to work, but expected to see her daughter later that day at her high school’s Christmas parade.

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After Jacqueline finished work, she went home to change out of her construction clothes, then drove to Edna High School. As she watched the Christmas parade, she noticed her daughter was not performing with the other cheerleaders.

Jacqueline asked her daughters’ teammates if they had seen Medina, but no one knew where she was.

“I decided to go look for her. And I kept calling her phone nonstop, and it would take me straight to voicemail. … I called a bunch of people and nobody knew anything,” Jacqueline told Fox.

Jacqueline said she went to go look for her daughter at home and that’s when she saw “her foot” sticking out of the bathtub.

“I opened the curtains. There she was,” Jacqueline said.

“It hurts me. When I went to go change, I didn’t realize that she had been there the whole time. I could have seen her,” she added. “I didn’t look. I just didn’t go into the restroom.”

The single mom questioned why anyone would want to hurt her daughter.

“She’s such a beautiful, smart, and amazing girl. There’s moments where I just can’t take it. And then there’s moments where I feel like I need to be strong for her,” Jacqueline said. “I don’t understand why. My God, why would they do this to her?”

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A GoFundMe page has been set up by Medina’s aunt to raise money for the family. She writes that Medina and her mom are originally from Grand Island, Nebraska, but they moved to Edna last year.

“My niece’s life was tragically taken from us at the young age of 16 years old, she was a student and cheerleader at Edna High school,” the GoFundMe page reads, adding that the Medina family has been “torn apart (by) this tragedy.”

“As a family we are asking the community for help to not only get Justice for my sweet Lizbeth but for any support that you can offer to my family at this time,” Medina’s aunt writes.

The GoFundMe campaign has raised over US$18,000, as of Monday morning.

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