Neighbor Charged With Murdering Tenn. Girl, 12, Who Texted Mom That Someone Was Knocking at the Door

Roy Coons stands accused of "brutally killing" Yhoana Arteaga, who lived two doors down from him

Authorities in Nashville, Tennessee, say that weeks of dogged police work has led to the arrest of a 45-year-old man who allegedly murdered his 12-year-old neighbor last month moments after the girl texted her mother that someone was knocking at the door, PEOPLE confirms.

During a press conference Monday evening, the Metro Nashville Police Department announced that they had detained Roy Coons for allegedly “brutally killing” Yhoana Arteaga, who family members found strangled to death on Aug. 10.

The girl had been left alone and was on crutches, recovering from a recent skating accident.

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According to investigators, Coons lives two doors down from the Arteaga family’s trailer in Goodlettsville. He is facing multiple criminal counts, including premeditated murder.

Detectives had identified him early on as a possible suspect, PEOPLE learns.

“The grand jury returned a multi-count indictment charging Coons with first-degree premediated murder, two counts of first-degree felony murder, attempted rape of a child, and especially aggravated burglary,” a statement from police reads.

“Scientific analysis of evidence” performed by both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Metro Nashville Police Department laboratories “led to the identification of Coons as the suspected murderer,” the statement continues.

Roy Coons
Metro Nashville Police Department

Coons is being held without bail. He has not entered a plea to the charges he faces, and at press time, had not retained legal counsel who could comment on his behalf.

PEOPLE also could not reach the Arteaga family for comment.

“The murder of Yhoana Arteaga was shocking to this community, including members of this police department,” Chief Steve Anderson said during Monday’s press conference. “This afternoon, we have been able to bring about relief to the Old Dickerson Pike neighborhood and Nashville as a whole. I am grateful to our team of detectives, crime scene experts, and importantly, the scientists in the TBI and MNPD crime laboratories for the countless hours of work on this case since August 10th.”

According to police, Coons has been convicted of more than 30 offenses — both felonies and misdemeanors — since 1992. The most recent was a felony marijuana possession and unlawful gun possession by a convicted felon in 2016.

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“The death of anyone is especially tragic and especially when it’s a homicide,” Anderson said. “And then when it’s a young person, 12-years-old, not yet reached the prime of their life, it’s especially tragic.”

Anderson later noted: “It’s certainly a relief to this police department that this man is in custody, and I know it’s a relief to all of Nashville.”

Yhoana’s body was found by her mother, 14-year-old sister, and 10-year-old brother as they returned home at 6:45 p.m. — more than an hour after the Liberty Collegiate Academy student had texted her mother, concerned that someone was knocking at the door.

The girl’s body was also left with contusions and abrasions, including several around her face and neck.

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