PEOPLE Explains: Tenn. Girl, 12, Killed After Texting Mom That Someone Was Knocking at the Door
Last Thursday, according to police, a 12-year-old girl was viciously killed inside her home in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, where she been alone for the afternoon.
The slain girl, Yhoana Arteaga, was a seventh-grade student at Liberty Collegiate Academy, a middle school in nearby Nashville, Tennessee. According to Nashville police, her remains showed evidence of “blunt force trauma.”
When she was found dead by her family, police said, Yhoana’s “clothing was in disarray.” Detectives continue to interview her friends and classmates “to determine if they have any information that could help further the investigation.”
Here are five things to know about this ongoing case.
1. Victim Found Dead About an Hour After Texting Her Mom
Nashville police said in a statement earlier this week that Yhoana was “brutally killed” not long after texting her mother about someone knocking at the door of their home.
Her mother last saw her at 12:30 p.m. that day and last communicated with her at 5:30 p.m., when Yhoana sent her the text.
Yhoana was found dead by her mother and two siblings at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, according to authorities. She was left home alone as she was recovering on crutches from a recent skating accident.
2. Police Describe ‘Brutal’ Death but Release Few Answers
Authorities have not released how, exactly, Yhoana died, but they said she was not stabbed or shot and there was no obvious indication of forced entry into her home — leading them to believe Yhoana may have known her killer.
“This is a horrible, brutal thing,” Nashville police Sgt. David Kautzman said during a recent news conference. “I’ve never seen anything this brutal in my entire career.”
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3. Investigators Seeking Tips From Public
Police in Nashville have been appealing to the public, seeking any information that may help identify the person who killed Yhoana.
“Thus far, helpful information from citizens, through Crime Stoppers or otherwise, has been very limited,” the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in its statement.
“Detectives are optimistic that a meaningful lead or leads will result from scientific testing being conducted by the MNPD Crime Laboratory,” the police statement continues. “This case is a priority for police department scientists as well as fingerprint experts who are studying a number of fingerprints discovered during the processing of the residence.”
Anyone with information about her killing is urged to contact Nashville’s Emergency Communications Center at 615-862-8600 or Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.
4. GoFundMe Campaign Launched to Help Girl’s Family
Donations have been pouring into a GoFundMe account that was launched in the wake of Yhoana’s slaying to support her grieving family.
The account was established by a family friend, Mike Wales, who hopes to raise $10,000 for the Arteagas to help pay for Yhoana’s funeral expenses. (PEOPLE has been unable to reach the girl’s family for comment.)
On the GoFundMe page, Wales describes Yhoana as “kind, polite, caring, fun, intelligent and beautiful … she will be remembered as a wonderful daughter and great friend to all who knew her.”
5. Community Gathered at Candlelight Vigil on Thursday Night
A week after Yhoana’s shocking death, community members gathered at the Hillview Acres Mobile Home Park — where Yhoana and her family lived — to remember the 12-year-old and pray for those she left behind, local TV station WRCB reports.
The group gathered to raise awareness for Yhoana’s unsolved killing and to “speak out against the vicious epidemic of homicides and murders that has taken so many lives this year in Nashville,” according to local station WTVF.
Dozens attended the vigil, including neighbor Sandra Jones.
“I couldn’t even imagine what that would be like, what it would be like to go through anything like this,” Jones told station WSMV. “Now, everyone is being more aware of their surroundings and who’s in the neighborhood. Come home, grab your kids, tell them you love them, because life is too short.”