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FBI back on the case in 2005 killing of Hammond teen

Alexandra Anaya was just 13 when she disappeared from her home in Hammond, Indiana, in 2005. Her dismembered body was found in the Little Calumet River three days later. | Provided photo

FBI officials are turning up the heat on a 2005 murder case, announcing Wednesday that the killing of 13-year-old Alexandra Anaya is one of a handful assigned to a new task force.

Alexandra’s dismembered body was found in the Little Calumet River just over 11 years ago, three days after the teen disappeared from her home in Hammond, Indiana. Her head, hands and feet were severed and have never been recovered.

Police in Chicago and Hammond never put the killing on the cold case list. And the FBI has renewed its interest and will be subjecting evidence to a new round of forensic testing, but they have no new leads, lead investigator Special Agent Courtney Corbett told reporters at a press conference at the FBI’s Chicago headquarters. Investigators now will wait for new information from testing or from tips from the community.

“Someone did this to [Alexandra]. Nobody deserves to go through what she went through,” she said. “The person that did this is sitting at home, probably watching this” press conference.

In the 10 years since Chicago Police’s marine unit recovered Alexandra’s body, forensic science has advanced, Corbett said. Evidence from the case has been shipped to an FBI lab, and results should be ready within two months. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson both expressed confidence that the case could still be solved.

Corbett would not say whether Rudolfo Heredia, the estranged boyfriend of Alexandra Anaya’s mother, Sandra, is a suspect.

Heredia was charged with stalking the mother and daughter in the spring of 2005, but he was acquitted at a federal trial in Indiana. Heredia and Sandra Anaya had two other children together, but Heredia was not Alexandra Anaya’s father.

Sandra Anaya told investigators she had learned Heredia had been molesting Alexandra and broke off their relationship in April 2005. She also said that in the ensuing weeks Heredia threatened her, repeatedly broke into the house and was seen outside by neighbors on other occasions.

The night Alexandra disappeared, Sandra Anaya was on a date, and she had received multiple calls from Heredia. When Sandra Anaya returned home at 3:30 the following morning, Alexandra told her that Heredia had called the house as well. Then Sandra Anaya left the house, and when she returned three hours later, Alexandra was gone.

Alexandra’s body was discovered mutilated and chained to weights in the Little Calumet River, less than two blocks from Heredia’s house in Riverdale.

Heredia was initially held on charges related to crossing state lines to kill or injure the Anayas, but he was formally indicted for stalking. Even after his acquittal, police in the two cities continued to work the case for years. Hammond Police Detective Ron Johnson, who retired, remains haunted by the case.

“The thing that sticks with you about this case is the gruesome way she was murdered and the way she was found,” said Johnson, who attended the press conference and said he still has a file on the case.

Corbett said the renewed focus has already turned up one possible piece of evidence: In pictures, Alexandra always wore the same necklace. Her mother confirmed Alexandra almost never took it off. Authorities have never recovered the necklace, a gold chain with a medallion stamped with the face of Jesus.

More likely, Corbett said, the case will turn on something someone heard back in 2005 or in the years since.

After more than a decade “people decide to come forward. Maybe something is heavy on their heart, or they have information that didn’t seem significant at the time,” she said.