By Houston Van Nest
Special to the News
A long search concluded in an emotional press conference Monday, April 10 as the remains of a young woman found near Rio Hondo have been identified and confirmed by local authorities.
The Harlingen Police Department, headed by Police Chief Jeffry Adickes, confirmed April 10 that the remains of missing teen Nahomi Rodriguez have been found after a nine month search nationwide, shifting this missing person investigation into a homicide.
Although Adickes never met the teenager in life, the results of the search left him distressed.
“We’ve gotten to know Nahomi over the last-” Adickes said, taking a moment to collect himself, “nine months. So this investigation hasn’t stopped.”
On April 6, Nahomi’s remains were discovered in a canal along Centerline Road near Rio Hondo, a small town northeast of Harlingen. A farmer found her remains while dredging the canal.
“There was a lot of evidence recovered at the scene,” Adickes said. “We are very hopeful that, bringing Nahomi home, we find the person or persons responsible.”
Adickes couldn’t comment on what evidence was found or how Nahomi died because the homicide investigation is still ongoing. However, the condition of her remains suggests that she died some time ago.
“Based on the evidence, we do feel that Nahomi perished many months ago,” Adickes said. “It could have even been the evening she went missing back in July of 2016.”
With all of the evidence at the scene, authorities stated that it narrows the focus to find those responsible for the 19-year-old’s death.
“Nahomi helped bring us direction this last week, focused upon this investigation and bring it into a closer circle,” Adickes said. “So she’s still with us.”
On April 8, after a forensic evaluation proved that Nahomi’s dental records matched that of the remain’s, the news of the discovery reached Nahomi’s family. For the family, it still feels surreal.
“I thought this would only happen in the movies, until it hits home,” said Enedina Sanchez, Nahomi’s aunt and spokeswoman for the Rodriguez family.
According to Sanchez, Nahomi’s parents Ramiro and Blanca Rodriguez were left grief-stricken by the revelation. Despite the devastation, however, the family’s faith remains unbroken.
“Continue with prayers, please,” Sanchez pleaded.
Sanchez took to the podium and delivered a message from the family. Renato Rodriguez, Nahomi’s uncle, stood next to her in support.
“I just want to let you know that—whoever you are—trust me. These gentlemen back here,” Sanchez said, signaling to the officers standing around and behind her, “will be looking for you.”
The spokeswoman wanted to thank the community on behalf of her family that aided in their search for the deceased as well, such as the businesses that posted missing flyers, local authorities and kind strangers that offered sunscreen when the family took to the streets to find information on Nahomi.
According to Sanchez, the family will be having a public memorial service for Nahomi once her remains are returned to them. When they will be returned depends on the investigation.
Sanchez, however, wishes that from the ashes of this terrible event will arise an inspiration of vigilance between parents, friends and co-workers to prevent this from happening again.
“Teenagers, young adults, don’t just trust anyone,” Sanchez said. “Be aware of who’s around you. Don’t leave without telling someone where you’re going. Carry that phone with you.”
Although this conference marked the end of Nahomi’s search, the hunt for those responsible has commenced. The Rodriguez family and Adickes encourages any surveillance or information to be sent to the Harlingen Police Department.
“If there is anybody else that is aware that might have some sort of footage or anything within that area in Harlingen or Rio Hondo that they can collaborate with that, it would be very helpful,” Renato Rodriguez said.
Adickes recommends that if anyone in the community can remember anything suspicious, like behavior changes, sold vehicles, moving out of the area abruptly or changed relationships with family, friends and co-workers back in July 2016 to reach out.
“Somebody knows who did this. It may not be important information to them, but somebody knows who did this,” he said. “A phone call can make all the difference in this case today.”
Any information or tips on the disappearance or death of Nahomi Rodriguez can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at (956) 425-8477