TEXAS CITY, Texas The mother of a girl found slain under a Chambers County bridge in 1996 said Friday a suspect s arrest and murder charge in the cold case was a miracle.

Kevin Edison Smith, 45, of Louisiana, was arrested Wednesday at his refinery job in Groves on a Chambers County Sheriff s Office warrant, charging him with murder in the killing of Krystal Jean Baker, Texas City Police Chief Robert Burby said.

DNA gathered from the case and processed through the Texas Department of Public Safety led to an arrest, Burby said.

Krystal was 13 when on March 5, 1996, she left her grandmother s Texas City home, searching for a way to a friend s house in Bayou Vista.

A sample of Smith s DNA apparently was taken by Louisiana police after he was arrested in January on drug trafficking charges.

Typical Teenager

Krystal was a typical teenager, looking forward to her 14th birthday, her mother, Jeanie Escamilla, said. She did get in a spat with her grandmother that day.

Krystal went to the nearest phone and tried to reach her mother, who was at work.

She was a teenager, Escamilla said. You know how they are. One minute they love you; the next minute they can t stand you.

Escamilla doubted Krystal would have walked that far.

My daughter was too much of a girlie-girl to walk to Bayou Vista, Escamilla said. I really and truly wished she would have stayed.

A girl found that night beneath the Trinity River bridge was identified two weeks later as Krystal, Burby said.

Smith Was Ball High Grad

Smith graduated from Ball High School in Galveston, his sister Quinette Smith said in a telephone interview Friday.

A relative in La Marque told The Daily News they re looking for a lawyer to represent him.

To my knowledge, he was nowhere in Texas City, Quinette Smith said of her brother s whereabouts in 1996. She acknowledged, however, she hadn t spoken with him to learn where he was.

We re trying on our end to ask people there in Chambers County to appoint him an attorney, she said. We re trying to get there to see if they ll let us speak with him, but they haven t as of yet.

Meanwhile, at the Texas City police station Friday, Escamilla was flanked by relatives as she spoke about Krystal.

Terrible Nightmare

I wish I could wake up out of this terrible nightmare and hold my little girl in my arms again, Escamilla said. None of this is going to bring her back.

After 14 years, Escamilla said she gave up hope that authorities would find her daughter s killer.

When Krystal got kidnapped and murdered, I was devastated, Escamilla said. She was Jane Doe for two weeks in Chambers County ... This is a miracle. This is a miracle from God.

No Comment From Chambers Sheriff

The Chamber s County Sheriff s Office, in a statement sent to The Daily News, said the investigation into Krystal s death was at a critical stage. Authorities and the county s district attorney believed any premature release of information in the case would jeopardize a successful prosecution, the statement said.

When asked Thursday and Friday for comment, the sheriff s office declined to acknowledge an arrest was made in Krystal s case, to reveal whether Smith still was jailed on a $1 million bond or to provide basic details of an arrest and booking information.

The sheriff s office would release a statement once its investigation is completed, Friday s statement said.

The Daily News on Friday faxed to the sheriff s office an open records request seeking basic arrest information, which the state attorney general s office has declared public information that can not be withheld.

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