EAST HAVEN — Police arrested Jonathan Jara-Aucapina, the common-law husband of slain young mother Lizzbeth Aleman-Popoca — and the father of their 8-year-old daughter — Sunday morning and charged him with murder in connection with her death, Chief of Police Ed Lennon said.
Jara-Aucapina was being held in the East Haven police lockup on a $2 million bond after being taken into custody without incident at Cody’s Diner in New Haven and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Superior Court in New Haven, Lennon said.
The arrest came nearly six months after Aleman-Popoca, 27, was reported missing in early July and 5 1/2 months after her remains were found buried in a shallow grave behind a dumpster behind LoMonaco’s Ristorante Italiano in Branford, the restaurant where Jara-Aucapina worked.
The state office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled in early September that Aleman-Popoca’s death was a homicide and the cause of her death was “homicidal asphyxia,” according to state Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill.
“I stand before you today to report that Jonathan Jara-Aucapina, age 27, was arrested this morning by members of the East Haven Police Department in connection with the murder of Lizzbeth Aleman-Popoca,” Lennon said at a press conference outside police headquarters, flanked by Aleman-Popoca’s father and sister, Mayor Joe Carfora and other officials, relatives and supporters.
“Lizzbeth was a vibrant mother, daughter and sister who leaves behind a ... daughter,” Lennon said. “This daughter, in one act of domestic violence, will spend the rest of her life without her mother. This is not how any child should live and grow up.
“A father no longer will have a daughter and a sister will no longer have her sister and best friend,” Lennon said. “I sincerely hope today’s arrest will begin the path for justice that Lizzbeth and her family ultimately deserve, after this senseless act of domestic violence was perpetuated against her.
Aleman-Popoca’s father, Albino Aleman Sedeño, thanked East Haven police for their hard work and, speaking in Spanish translated by a police officer, talked about how the loss of his oldest daughter has ripped the heart out of his family.
Aleman Sedeño said all he asks “is for true justice to be served at the end of this.” He said he “wants to bring comfort” to his family and for this “to be a light at the end of the tunnel” for other families facing similar circumstances, as well.
Addressing questions about how long it took to get the State’s Attorney’s office to sign a warrant and then make an arrest, Lennon said, “This is a very complex investigative case that has taken months to investigate. We strive as an ageny for transparence, which is why it was frustrating for us not to be able to disseminate the details of this case until today.
“If we had discussed this case, we were concerned that certain details would have compromised evidence — and some details were only known by Jonathan and may have alerted him,” he said. But “our commitment to bringing justice to Lizzbeth and her family began the day she was reported missing and continued all the way until today.”
Lennon and Carfora both singled out two police officers in particular, Sgt. Jeff Vailette and officer Anthony Fiorillo, whom Lennon said worked on the case non-stop since the day Aleman-Popoca was reported missing.
Carfora did not speak at the press conference but said in a text, “I am so very pleased that our department has made an arrest in Lizzbeth’s murder. She was a special young woman and mother who was beloved by her family.
“It is my sincere hope that this first step towards justice provides them some form of comfort,” Carfora said. “ Investigations like this one need to be meticulously handled so that law enforcement gets not only an arrest, but also creates the building blocks to get a conviction.
“I would like to commend everyone involved,” Carfora said. “Our community stands with this family as this matter continues. ”
Carfora and Lennon each thanked both Vailette and Fiorillo and the rest of the EHPD for their work on the case, along with the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squad for their work on the case.
Lennon also thanked the Branford, North Branford, North Haven and New Haven police departments for their help on various aspects of the investigation.
Aleman-Popoca, a native of Mexico’s Guerrero state, came to the U.S. at age 16 with her younger sister, Yaneth Aleman, now 24. She was reported missing July 3 by family and Jara-Aucapina.
Aleman-Popoca and Jara-Aucapina, who was from Ecuador, were not officially married but had a child together and referred to each other as husband and wife, according to Aleman-Popoca’s family. Aleman has been taking care of her late sister’s daughter, Astrid, since Aleman-Popoca disappeared.
Yaneth Aleman and her father, both of New Haven, had repeatedly called for justice for her during the weeks and months since her disappearance and the discovery of her body, pressing the issue in a rally on the steps of Town Hall and during a Day of the Dead procession in New Haven’s Fair Haven section, among other venues.
“I know a lot of people have told me not to say anything, not to do anything. But I can’t keep quiet,” Aleman, who did not speak Sunday, said at an Oct. 9 rally on the Town Hall steps. “It was my sister...
“It took them 15 days to find my sister, lifeless, buried in a shallow grave behind a dumpster,” she said.
“I have a lot of rage and no one’s going to be able to shut my rage out until I get justice for my sister,” she said later in Spanish that was translated by supporter Vanesa Suarez, a member of the Justice for Lizzbeth group that has formed in the wake of Aleman-Popoca’s death.
The family has set up a GoFundMe campaign that remains open to raise money for Aleman-Popoca’s daughter’s future upbringing. As of Friday, $11,415 had been raised toward a $50,000 goal.