- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police discovered the remains of a missing pregnant woman and quickly arrested the father of her unborn child yesterday, ending a monthlong search.

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said Stephen Poaches would be charged with two counts of murder and related offenses for the deaths of LaToyia Figueroa, 24, and her unborn child.

Authorities did not provide a motive or say what led them to suspect Mr. Poaches, 25, who police said was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a pistol when he was arrested.

The remains were recovered in a grassy, partially wooded lot in Chester, 13 miles from Philadelphia. A few dozen members of the Figueroa family and supporters arrived at the scene shortly after daybreak, clustering close to the police tape and embracing each other.

“Now she can rest in peace,” said Miss Figueroa’s father, Melvin. “All I want is justice with that peace.”

Miss Figueroa’s uncle, Jose, said as terrible as the discovery of the body was, it puts an end to the weeks of fear and not knowing what happened to his niece, who was five months’ pregnant at the time of the disappearance. “We can actually try to go back to a normal life,” he said.

Relatives and friends had papered the city with fliers and held large-scale searches for any sign of Miss Figueroa. A reward fund for information reached $100,000, including donations from the restaurant where she worked.

The case attracted a brief flurry of television attention after several Philadelphia-area bloggers waged a campaign urging networks to give the same attention to Miss Figueroa, who is black and Hispanic, as they did to Natalee Holloway, a white woman who disappeared in Aruba.

Mr. Poaches’ lawyer, Michael Coard, repeatedly has spoken to journalists on behalf of his client, including national television appearances in which he noted that Mr. Poaches has spoken to investigators voluntarily and that he has consented to have his home and his vehicle searched.

Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said yesterday that Mr. Coard’s public relations moves would not hold up.

“He has an attorney who has basically tried this case in the news media and has depicted him to be innocent. We are saying today that he is not innocent and we are going to convict him and he will go to whatever he deserves to get,” Commissioner Johnson said.

Mr. Coard did not return a phone call seeking comment after yesterday’s press conference.

Miss Figueroa, who also is the mother of a 7-year-old girl, was last seen on the afternoon of July 18 in West Philadelphia.

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