"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."-Benjamin Franklin
Nine days passed and nobody knew what happened to Marlen. The family had received information from people who thought they saw her the day after she went missing at a WalMart and Raquel even received a call from someone stating that they were part of a cartel and wanted money. But none of the leads, tips or hoax calls led anywhere. So on the 2nd of May, Marlen's family held a news conference. Raquel begged for her daughter to be returned home safely. She believed she was being held against her will somewhere. After the news conference, the family received more tips. They were sent some screenshots from the Facebook group they had previously heard about that Marlen was a member of called Help A Sister Out.
The person who sent the screenshots told them that a woman named Clarisa Figueroa had responded to several posts from Marlen.
Clarisa's daughter Desiree answered the door. She told them her mother was in hospital. She had just given birth. Police looked around the area while they were there and just a half block away from Clarisa's house, they found Marlen's car.
Police went to the hospital to ask Clarisa about Marlen but Clarisa told them that she didn't see Marlen on the 23rd of April. She went to hospital that day with her own newborn baby. The baby had no brain activity and was in intensive care.
Screenshot of Messages between Marlen Ochoa and Clarisa
Police spoke with the medical staff and they confirmed that Clarisa had not given birth in the hospital. Clarisa had called 911 and said that she had given birth at home but the baby was not breathing. The Doctor saw blood on Clarisa's hands and top but there was no indication that she had just given birth.
On the 9th of May, police told Yovany that they believed that the baby Clarisa claimed was her baby was actually his baby. They carried out a DNA test.
While they awaited DNA results, police were made aware of a GoFundMe page that had allegedly been set up by Desiree. The page was looking for money for a newborn baby. On the 8th of May, Clarisa's boyfriend Piotr, shared the GoFundMe campaign, writing:
“My son is a fighter made it this far, but not much time left, life support, brain dead, very little function in the brain.”
The DNA tests confirmed that the newborn baby was not Clarisa's baby. It was Marlen's baby. So police had to find out where Marlen was.
Police went to Clarisa's home with a search warrant . Her boyfriend, Piotr Bobak, was hosing a rug outside the house. He had a bottle of bleach in his hand. Police searched inside the house and outside. They discovered bleach and cleaning products inside the house and there was evidence of burned clothing and blood on the floors of the living room, bathroom and the hallway. In a garbage can in the backyard, police discovered Marlen's body. A cable was wrapped around her neck and her stomach had been cut open. A baby had been removed from her womb. The cause of death was determined as ligature strangulation and it was ruled a homicide.
A few weeks later, on the 14th of June, the baby died. Marlen's family named him Yovany Jadiel Lopez. He died from complications from lack of oxygen and blood to his brain due to maternal assault and demise. His death was ruled a homicide.
Clarisa, Desiree and Piotr were arrested and charged with the murder of Marlen. They were later indicted on further murder charges in relation to baby Yovany's death.
The Prosecution allege that Clarisa and Desiree planned to steal a baby for months. Clarisa pretended she was pregnant and posted fake photos online and joined group Facebook pages with other women who were expecting a baby. Clarisa Figueroa previously had a son named Xander who, in 2018, died of natural causes. He was 20 years old at the time. The Prosecution believe that Clarisa and Marlen met via the Facebook group Help A Sister Out. It is a group where women can sell, buy or donate baby items. Marlen needed a double stroller for her three year old son and the new baby. It is the Prosecution's case that Clarisa tried to kill Marlen on the 1st of April, when Marlen went to her house for the first time to collect some baby items but Desiree's boyfriend told them he would call the police.
The Prosecution's case is that before the 1st of April, Clarisa told Desiree she needed help to kill a woman and take her baby. When Marlen went to their house on the 1st of April, Desiree told her boyfriend what her mother planned to do and he told her that if she tried anything, he would call the police. When Marlen left the house, Clarisa and Desiree told Desiree's boyfriend that it had been an April Fool's joke.
A Photo Clarisa uploaded to Facebook
The Prosecution allege that on the 23rd of April, Marlen went to Clarisa's house in her black Honda Civic car. Clarisa and Desiree invited her to sit on the couch in the living room to look at some photos of Xander.
Clarisa went behind the couch and wrapped a cable around her hands and then wrapped it around Marlen’s neck. Marlen managed to put some of her fingers between her neck and the cable and Desiree removed them. Clarisa tightened the cable and got on top of Marlen. She strangled her for 4-5 minutes until Marlen urinated on herself. It is alleged that Clarisa told Desiree that Marlen was dead because when she previously researched online, she discovered it took around 5 minutes to strangle someone and they would urinate just before death. The Prosecution allege that they then cut Marlen's abdomen and removed her baby. They put Marlen's body in a bag and then into the garbage can in their backyard.
As the baby was not breathing, Clarisa called 911. Neighbors reported hearing her screaming "My baby is not breathing."
The Prosecution further allege that they have footage of Desiree driving Marlen's car and that she was the one to park it half a block away and she threw away her phone.
The Prosecution allege that Piotr helped to cover up the crime and cleaned blood from inside the house. All three have pleaded not guilty. They are currently awaiting Trial. Desiree gave birth to a child in custody.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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