BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Dozens of people came together to honor the life of 13-year-old Patricia Alatorre Monday night.
Bakersfield Police announced Monday that they now believe the missing girl is dead and have arrested a suspect in the case. The community still coming to terms with that news as they gathered for a vigil near the neighborhood where Alatorre was last seen.
"She was always laughing. She was always joking around. She always had a smile on her face, if you were having a bad day she would make you feel better," said Dleila Estrella, a friend of Alatorre.
Alatorre went missing from her neighborhood on Crescent Ridge Street near Hosking Avenue and Wible Road in Southwest Bakersfield shortly before midnight last Wednesday and now police are saying they believe she was murdered.
The development comes after police arrested 24-year-old Inglewood resident Armando Cruz in Los Angeles County Sunday night. According to police at the time Alatorre went missing Cruz's white pick-up truck was caught on home surveillance footage in her neighborhood.
Neighbors living in the area now saying they have been on edge since Alatorre's disappearance.
Greenfield Union School District has issued a response regarding the death of Patricia Alatorre. She attended McKee Middle School.
"Patti, you couldn't help but love her, she was petite in size but carried a big presence, you couldn't help but notice she was in the room. If I needed everyone's attention in class, she used that big voice of hers to ensure everyone was attentive. 'Mama Patti' is what we affectionately called her in class, she was bold and always spoke the truth, even if it was her own, but again it was okay because it was 'Mama Patti.' I'm sure being the youngest of the bunch she had to ensure her voice was heard, especially with Angel as her brother, lol. Patrica will be sorely missed," said 6th grade teacher Lakisha Thomas.
"Patricia Alatorre was the light on my day. Sassy, social and smart. Patty was a joy to be around. Once yelling in class, 'Listen to Miss Johnson, for the love of God!' The class, knowing how often I say this, burst into laughter. That's what Patty brought to class every day, laughter - she was unapologetically herself and wasn't afraid to be honest about anything. I will forever look at my classroom and see her in her seat, looking at me with her beautiful smile. Her seat will be reserved for the 20-21 school year," added science teacher Jacquelyn Johnson.
Cruz was booked into jail on multiple charges including, murder, contacting a minor with intent to commit sexual assault, rape, and lewd acts with a child under the age of 14. He's being held without bail and is expected in court Tuesday afternoon.
Police are still investigating if Alatorre and Cruz knew each other and how they came into contact. Anyone with information is asked to call BPD at 327-7111.