Police in Mexico have taken a man and a woman into custody following the abduction and murder of a 7-year-old girl whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag, officials say.
The victim, identified by investigators as Fatima, was buried Tuesday by grieving family members, friends and neighbors. She was last seen alive leaving her school on Feb. 11 with a woman who was not her mother, before being found dead over the weekend in a rural area on the outskirts of Mexico’s capital.
"The alleged perpetrators of the femicide of the minor Fátima were detained in a town in the State of Mexico with the support of the National Guard," Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a tweet late Wednesday, according to the BBC.
Sheinbaum earlier had said the two suspects are apparently a couple and that witnesses told investigators the pair had abandoned their rented home in a southern Mexico City neighborhood on Saturday, the day before the girl’s body was discovered.
Authorities then searched the house Tuesday night. They found the shoes and sweater Fatima was wearing on the day of her abduction, in addition to the female suspect’s clothes, the BBC reports.
The outlet, citing the El Universal newspaper, said the pair were tracked down Wednesday afternoon with the help of a drone.
The girl's mother, María Magdalena Antón, told Milenio television on Thursday that the female suspect had once sought shelter at her home “because she said her husband wanted to kill her." The suspect later apparently returned to her husband.
The revelation may explain why Fatima went willingly with the suspect -- because she knew her.
Mexico City's police chief, Omar Garcia, said Thursday the female suspect and her husband are being held on charges they tried to bribe police into letting them go. Authorities hope to bring kidnapping or murder charges against them soon.
While authorities have not revealed the cause of death or any abuse Fatima suffered before her death, Garcia did say police found plastic zip ties that were apparently used to restrain the girl at a house near where she was abducted on Mexico City's south side.
Family members say the day Fatima disappeared, her mother was about 15-20 minutes late to pick her up.
In Mexico City, grade school students often walk out of school after classes to meet parents waiting on the sidewalks, but there have been few controls to ensure someone is there to meet them.
The girl’s grandfather and others have criticized the school for turning Fatima out onto the street when classes were done for the day and for not calling police to come get her when there was no parent present.
Children who aren’t picked up are supposed to be taken to a prosecutor’s facility in the central neighborhood of Doctores. It can take an hour or more to get there from outlying neighborhoods, especially when the sprawling capital’s notorious traffic is at its peak.
With the death of Fatima, officials have said they plan to have prosecutor’s offices around the city care for children who aren’t picked up until their parents are able to claim them closer to home.
Sheinbam said officials also plan to bolster protocols for identifying people who pick kids up from school, accelerate deployment of security cameras and have uniformed workers on hand for security at drop-off and pick-up hours.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.