METAIRIE, La. (AP) — A man who moved recently from Honduras with his girlfriend and their children faces a second-degree murder charge in the young woman's death. She was found bludgeoned in a suburban New Orleans apartment, authorities said Monday.
Pedro Alberto Monterroso-Navas, 43, was arrested early Monday with his three children in a trailer park in Katy, Texas, Jefferson Parish sheriff's Col. John Fortunato said.
"Unless he fights extradition to Jefferson Parish, he will be returned here and face a second-degree murder charge" in the death of Heidi Monroy, 24, Fortunato said. He said later that he probably won't know until Tuesday whether the man will oppose extradition.
Monroy died in a bathtub at the Metairie apartment, according to authorities. She and five children had moved in two weeks ago, said neighbors in complexes on a dead end near an interstate off-ramp. They said Monterroso-Navas showed up intermittently at the first-floor apartment in one of two adjacent small brick buildings.
Fortunato said the man's three children — a 12-year-old girl and boys ages 4 and 2 — were with him, unhurt, and are in Texas state custody. Two other brothers, ages 5 and 8, are in Louisiana state custody, Fortunato added.
Monterroso-Navas showed up occasionally, said Josue M. Sabido, who lives next door, and Terrlyn Foy, who lives in a complex on the other side of a high hedge and a fence thick with ivy.
Foy said the 12-year--old girl cooked and cared for the four boys, and Monroy's only furniture was a nightstand with a television on it and a twin box spring and mattress on the bedroom floor. The neighbor also said Monroy's electricity had been off sporadically since about Tuesday.
Foy, who speaks no Spanish, said Monroy and the children spoke no English. But she said she made friends by offering a box of disposable diapers for the youngest boy. On July 9, she noticed their power was out and brought over a flashlight. However, she said, the lights were back on by the time she brought the flashlight over.
The next morning, she said, the girl knocked at her door, making stirring motions and pointing at the stove to ask if she could cook. She cooked there for a few days, bringing vegetables, rice and meat — liver one day, chicken or beef on others.
Foy said she was impressed by the girl's responsibility, cooking ability and tidiness. All five children were respectful and always smiling, she said.
Monroy was often absent, Foy said — and when she did see Monroy, the younger woman was often sitting outside and talking on the phone.
Sabido said he never heard Monroe and Monterroso-Navas argue. However, he said, Monroy told him that Monterroso-Navas no longer loved her and "got jealous too much."
Fortunato has said the couple was from Honduras.
Sabido said Monroy told him they came to the United States about six weeks ago from Central America.
Foy said Monterroso-Navas told her that Monroy wanted to leave with the toddler. Foy said that shocked her, because Monroy seemed distant from all the children.
"I had never seen her put her hand on or hold the baby, never saw her feed the baby," Foy said.
She also said she never saw Monroy touch or cuddle the other children, not even changing position when the younger boys would snuggle up to her. The older boys often fed her, Foy said, lifting their spoons and juice or water bottles to her mouth while she talked on the phone.
Around 3:35 a.m. Sunday, Monroy's two older sons asked neighbors for help, Fortunato said. Deputies found her unconscious with head wounds and she died in her Metairie apartment, Sheriff Newell Normand said.
An autopsy Monday confirmed that Monroy had been bludgeoned, Fortunato said. Investigators do not know what she was hit with, he said.
Jose Ortiz, another neighbor, reflected on irony: "The lady came from Honduras because in Honduras there is danger — because in the USA is more safety."