A missing and potentially suicidal California man is suspected in the death of his 8-month-old daughter, whose body was found discarded Monday morning behind a mortuary, authorities said.
Alexander Echeverria, 22, of Sacramento, is sought for questioning in the death of Alexia Rose Echeverria, whose body was found seated in her car seat beside a dumpster, according to investigators. The Los Angeles Times said the girl was found behind the Funeraria del Angel in Bellflower, where Alexander Echeverria has family.
Bellflower is about 400 miles from Sacramento in Los Angeles County.
"Alexander is considered a person of interest in the death of Alexia," Sacramento County Sheriff's Office officials said in a statement. "He is considered at-risk due to suicidal statements made to family members recently."
Karla Alvarado, the infant’s mother, described her daughter as perfect.
"She was already calling me Mama," Alvarado told Fox40 in Sacramento. "She was clapping. I was trying to teach her how to crawl."
Alvarado told the news station Echeverria dropped her off at work around 11 a.m. Sunday and the couple called one another on FaceTime about an hour later. Alvarado said the video chat was the last time she saw her daughter alive.
Echeverria told her he was taking the baby to Bakersfield, about four hours south of Sacramento, but that he would be home with her the following morning, Alvarado told the news station. He never returned.
Alvarado told ABC10 in Sacramento that Echeverria told her he was going to southern California to help his brother get out of some trouble. Suspecting a lie, she added his brother on Snapchat and saw several posts indicating his brother was fine, she told the news station.
Alvarado said she called Echeverria and asked him where the baby was. He turned the camera toward the car, saying, “Look, she’s in there.”
When Alvarado told him to take her out of the car or let her see her inside, she said he wouldn’t.
"He hung up on me," Alvarado told ABC10.
Alvarado said Echeverria called his brother at some point and told him the couple’s young daughter had died in an accident.
"He told him that he was playing with her, throwing her up (in the air), and he slipped and she fell, and she wasn't waking up," Alvarado told Fox40. "He said he got scared and he drove to the hospital, but he never went in because he thought nobody was going to believe him that it was an accident."
Family members in Bellflower reported Echeverria missing Monday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. They told authorities he suffered from depression and they were worried about his well-being.
Alexia was found around 10:35 a.m. that same day, NBC Los Angeles reported. Los Angeles County Detective Steve Blagg told reporters at a news conference that the baby was found by a mortuary worker who spotted the upright car seat, which was partially covered with a blanket, as he cleaned near the dumpster.
Alvarado said she learned her daughter’s fate after she, too, reported Alexia and Echeverria missing. As she met with detectives in Sacramento County, they asked her to describe her daughter’s car seat and blanket.
Then, they showed her photos.
"It was my baby. They were covering her face, but she was leaning against, like, a wall," Alvarado told ABC10. "I was thinking, 'Oh, it was just a car seat.' Soon after they showed me those pictures, (a detective) told me.
“I know it was her because I knew it was her blanket. It was her blanket. It was her car seat. I knew it was my baby.”
Blagg said there were no visible signs of trauma on Alexia "from what (investigators) could see." He said detectives could see little of the baby's body at the scene, the Times reported.
An autopsy was pending to determine Alexia’s cause of death.
Authorities believe the baby died in Sacramento County, despite her body being found in Los Angeles County. Detectives there looped in their Sacramento County counterparts after linking the baby found behind the mortuary to the missing persons case in northern California, Fox40 reported.
Echeverria was last seen driving a gray 2014 Volkswagen Jetta with California license plate number 7FFT866, authorities said. He may still be driving the car.
Alvarado told Fox40 she hopes investigators find Echeverria, who she said never called her to tell her about their daughter's death.
"He should have told me this happened and faced the consequences," Alvarado told the news station. "If he had to go to jail, then deal with it, you know, deal with it. But my baby didn't have to go through all that.
“I just can’t believe that he would just leave her there. She wasn’t trash. She wasn’t a doll. She was my little girl.”