"She was a lovely caring girl. I just want them to find out who did this to my child," Birdie Lewis, victim's mother, said in 2009.
On November 30, 2009, 12-year-old Jahmeshia Conner had just been found dead in an alley not a block away from where she lived. She'd been missing for two weeks. No one was ever arrested for the crime until now.
"After a four-and-a-half year ordeal I'm incredibly proud of these men for bringing this case to a closure," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Department.
Charged with the sexual assault and murder of Jahmeshia is 47-year-old Rene Valentin-Matos, whom police described Wednesday as a transient who moved around doing odd jobs.
"He lived in the area, unfortunately, in the church where our victim went to and got school supplies a couple of times, and it was less than half a block from where she lived," said Lt. Ozzie Valdez, Chicago Police Department.
Arrested in the area of Cold Spring, Minnesota, police say they connected Valentin-Matos to Jahmeshia when his DNA, which was recovered but never identified, was flagged as matching the DNA of a suspect wanted in another Chicago-area sexual assault in 2011.
"The DNA match came in January. From January we had him identified and within a week we were out hunting him since January," said Supt. McCarthy.
Jahmeshia Connor was last seen at a bus stop at 64th and Racine on the night of November 15, 2009. She was heading home from church. And yet, for days, it went unreported because police believed her to be a runaway. On Wednesday, McCarthy insisted that would not have affected their search for her.
"If she was looked at as a runaway initially it doesn't change the way we approach a case. That's the way the standards are. Tender age missings we go after like it could be worst case scenario, and in this case, obviously it was," said Supt. McCarthy.
Valentin-Matos is scheduled to be in bond court on Thursday. He has also been charged with sexual assault in the 2011 case that led to his arrest. Details on that have not yet been released.