Man Arrested in Death of Missing Teen Whose Burned Body Was Found in Sweetwater

A man is in custody in connection with the death of a teen whose charred body was found behind a shopping center in Sweetwater, Florida, in October 2014, and police say the suspect had known the victim for several years before she died.

On Thursday, Sweetwater police arrested 66-year-old Armando Botell, of Miami. He's charged with second degree murder with a deadly weapon.  according to an arrest report.

Investigators revealed that Botell had an "intimate" relationship with Romina Fernandez, 17, and had been selling drugs, including Xanax, to the girl since she was 15-years-old. Botell also had nude photos of Fernandez on his phone, according to the report.

"Today is a very special day because for many months we are always thinking about..." said Marcella Fernandez, Romina's aunt.

According to Miami-Dade Police Department investigators, a 9-1-1 call was issued on October 11th, 2014 reporting a fire behind a shopping center at the corner of Flagler Street and Southwest 114th Street in Sweetwater.

When crews arrived to extinguish the fire, they found the body of a woman burned beyond recognition. Through dental records, medical examiners later identified the victim as Fernandez of Sweetwater. The teen had been reported missing earlier that same day.

An autopsy ruled the cause of death to be a homicide.

The report further reveals that Botell developed a "stalking" relationship with the victim, to the point that police say Botell was "obsessed" with the victim.

"He was stalking her, he actually paid another witness that came forward... he paid to follow her, to watch her so obviously that shows the obsession that he had with this young lady," said Lt. John Jenkins of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Botell also reportedly confessed to a witness that he was physically abusive toward Fernandez.

According to the report, phone records reveal that Botell and Fernandez met at her Sweetwater home in the early morning hours the day before her death.

Investigators say both Fernandez and Botell's cell phones were pinging from the same tower near Fernandez's house until 5 p.m. on the day she died. At 5 p.m., Fernandez's phone was turned off.

Botell's phone also turned off just shortly after 5 p.m., then came back on approximately three hours after Fernandez's body was discovered.

Surveillance footage from the shopping plaza showed Botell's silver Mercedes SUV dumping Fernandez's body and igniting it on fire. That same vehicle was also seen parked outside Botell's home.

Botell provided two separate statements to investigators in February and May of 2015. His account of the events of the night and his relationship with Fernandez were contradicted by cellular tower records and witness testimony.

Following his arrest Thursday, Botell was transported to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
He has a prior conviction for murder in 1980 where he served 15 years in prison.

Botell made an appearance in court Friday afternoon where he was ordered held without bond. It is not known of Botell has hired an attorney.

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