The suspect in the slaying of a 19-year-old Arlington woman was arrested by a fugitive task force Tuesday at a relative's house in central Mexico, officials said.

Ernesto Pina Reyes, 20, had eluded authorities since Carrollton police accused him of killing University of North Texas sophomore Melanie Goodwin on Sept. 25.

When U.S. marshals and Mexican police took him into custody about 1 p.m. in Celaya in Guanajuato state, Reyes didn't resist or run, but he did claim to be someone else, Carrollton police spokesman Sgt. John Singleton said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

"We've positively confirmed his identity," Singleton said. "He is the right man."

Matthew Bobo, a spokesman for the Goodwin family, said officers gave relatives the good news before it was released publicly.

While her parents were "extremely happy" that Reyes had been apprehended, his capture doesn't end the grief they'll have for the rest of their lives, Bobo said.

"It allows some closure for the family, but it doesn't bring back Melanie," Bobo said. "It doesn't make this any less tragic."

The Rev. Cammy Gaston, a campus minister who knew Goodwin at UNT, expressed similar feelings. She said students at the Denton Wesley Foundation are still coping with the shock of Goodwin's death. Goodwin had been active at the United Methodist student organization since her freshman year.

"She's still part of our family," Gaston said. "It's just a big gap of her not being present. She had such joy. She was just one of those types of persons who filled a room."

The investigation

Police declined again Tuesday to say whether they knew of a motive in the killing.

Singleton talked with the U.S. marshals after the arrest but wouldn't say whether Reyes had made any statements.

Goodwin's body was found badly burned early Sept. 25 in the 3200 block of Keller Springs Road in Carrollton.

Investigators have said that they do not believe Goodwin and Reyes knew each other. It appears that the two met for the first time at about 1:40 a.m. Sept. 25 at a convenience store at Mayhill Road and Interstate 35E in Denton.

Surveillance video recorded them leaving the store together in Goodwin's car. Police said they tracked a call Reyes made from a phone at the store and were able to put a name with the face.

A friend of Reyes' told investigators that he saw Reyes with Goodwin's body and helped him destroy evidence, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Reyes' girlfriend, who police say was the person he called from the store, told detectives that she saw burns on his arm, according to an affidavit.

The search

Reyes' arrest brings to a close a manhunt in Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico.

Singleton said authorities had staked out a handful of places where they thought Reyes could be hiding. Several sites in Mexico had been under 24-hour surveillance since that country's authorities issued an arrest warrant Saturday.

"We didn't know exactly where he was, but we knew he would pop his head up somewhere," Singleton said. "We wanted all of our bases covered."

The high-profile case received national media attention, including an appearance on the Web site for television's America's Most Wanted. The Goodwin family also helped organize a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. They did not know Tuesday whether there was a tipster who would receive it, Bobo said.

Singleton did not know when Reyes would arrive back in the United States.

"We know that extradition is a complicated and lengthy process," he said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.


1:40 a.m. Sept. 25: Melanie Goodwin is seen talking to a man later identified as Ernesto Reyes at a Denton convenience store. A clerk tells police that Reyes asked her for a ride and that they left together in Goodwin's red Saturn.

11:30 a.m. Sept. 25: Goodwin's burned body is found in the 3200 block of Keller Springs Road in Carrollton.

Sept. 26: Police find Goodwin's car near Dallas Drive in Denton, and an arrest warrant accusing Reyes of murder is issued. The arrest warrant affidavit says police have a surveillance tape from outside a business in the 3200 block of Keller Springs Road that shows a man matching Reyes' description dragging a body from Goodwin's car and starting a fire.

Sept. 27: Carrollton police arrest Donovan R. Young, 19, an acquaintance of Reyes', on a charge of tampering with evidence. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Young told police that Reyes arrived at his apartment with Goodwin's body in the back of her Saturn after 2 a.m. Sept. 25. Young admitted giving Reyes money to buy gasoline and a can to carry it in, the affidavit states.

Sept. 29: More than 1,500 people attend Goodwin's funeral in Arlington.

Saturday: Mexican authorities issue an emergency provisional arrest warrant for Reyes.

Tuesday: Reyes is arrested outside a relative's home in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico. He is being held in Mexico.