- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A man has been charged with killing a 4-year-old Arizona girl whose death was under investigation for 17 years, prosecutors announced Friday.

Avelino Guzman Tamala, 51, was indicted last week on a murder charge in the 1998 death of Crystal Reyes.

A cold case investigative team with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was recently able to positively identify the victim’s remains, which were found near the community of Mobile on Dec. 1, 1998.

Investigators developed information indicating that Crystal was killed in April 1997 while in the care of her mother and Tamala.

The girl was subsequently buried in the desert near Mobile.

Investigators recently identified Crystal’s biological father and used a sample of his DNA to positively identify her remains.

Prosecutors declined to specify the evidence that they say connects Tamala to the death.

Officers with the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Tamala without incident last Friday. He’s scheduled to appear in court Feb. 2 for an initial pretrial conference.

A message left for Tamala’s attorney, Amy Kalman, wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

Authorities are searching for Crystal’s mother, 48-year-old Anna Marlene Reyes.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Crystal was the victim of physical abuse, including having her head shaved and being forced to live in a dog kennel.

“Thanks to the diligence of our cold case investigation team in cooperation with our law enforcement partners, we are now able to seek justice for an innocent child whose life was inexcusably and violently cut short,” Montgomery said in a statement.

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