Former Truck Driver Pleads Guilty to 2014 Killing of 24-Year-Old New Mexico Womanby Jana Ritter - Published: 5/10/2017
A former Arizona truck driver pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter after authorities traced him to the 2014 killing of a 24-year-old New Mexico woman. At the time, she worked a prostitute and met up with him one night while he was traveling through the area. She was never seen again until her nude, decomposed body was found in the brush along Interstate 40 near Hinton, Oklahoma.
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The victim, Veneranda Flores, was reported missing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Dec. 21, 2014. She had made plans to go to a movie with a friend that night but never showed up. Her father knew something was seriously wrong when he didn’t hear from her by Christmas Day. He said the last time he had spoke to his daughter was on Dec. 17, 2014 when she called him from Albuquerque to wish him a happy birthday and promised to call him on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But Flores said he knew something was very wrong when that call never came because that just wasn’t like his daughter. “She and I were very close. She would have gotten a hold of me somehow She was constantly in contact with me. I didn’t think we were going to find her alive,” he said.
Albuquerque police began investigating her disappearance and immediately questioned 40-year-old Juan Manuel Gonzalez Jr. after phone records showed he and Flores had been texting each other on the day she disappeared. He had admitted to investigators that he had picked up "a prostitute" while driving through Albuquerque and said he did not remember her name. He claimed they spent some time at a casino and then he dropped her off in Albuquerque. He said it was the last he saw of her before he got back on the road to deliver a load to the East Coast.
It wasn’t until over a year later on April 7, 2015, when Oklahoma State Transportation Department workers found the extremely decomposed remains of a nude woman along I-40. It took until last August before the victim was finally identified as Flores through DNA. Investigators then looked back into Gonzalez’s GPS records, which confirmed he drove through Oklahoma on I-40 early on Dec. 22, 2014. Investigators also concluded he had disabled his GPS computer for a period of time as he searched for a place to dump the body. He then turned the GPS back on at a truck stop in Hinton. On his way back to Arizona, he had called his girlfriend and she said he told her he was "having nightmares and hearing voices and couldn’t take it any longer." When he returned to Arizona on Jan. 2, 2015, he abruptly quit his trucking job.
A few days after Flores’ body was identified, Gonzalez was arrested at his apartment in Glendale, Arizona. On May 8, 2017, he appeared in Caddo County District Court and agreed to a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and unlawful removal of a dead body and was sentenced to only 12 years in an Oklahoma prison. He will also be on probation for 30 years following his release.