ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities arrested a 36-year-old St. Petersburg man Thursday on a charge that he killed a pregnant teen whose body was found in Polk County earlier this week.
Aurelio Martinez, a registered sex offender, was arrested about 7 a.m. Thursday on a second-degree murder charge in the killing of 17-year-old Bria Metz, also of St. Petersburg.
Detectives took Martinez into custody after they found him hiding in his attic, said Donna Wood, spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff''s Office.
Metz, who family members told detectives was three months pregnant, was last seen April 30 leaving the home she shared with her great-grandmother.
Polk County maintenance workers found her body Monday in a clump of trees.
"We have not slept for days," said Vicki Jones, the teen's aunt. "We prayed, asked God to help us get through this."
Martinez has a long criminal record.
He pleaded guilty in 1997 to sexual battery. He also faces charges of failing to register as a sex offender and violation of probation on a 2003 child abuse case. Details of those cases were not available Thursday.
Martinez also has been arrested on charges of burglary, cocaine possession and battery.
Martinez told detectives Metz was at his home the night she disappeared.
Metz wanted money, Martinez told detectives, and he drove her to her grandmother's house. The two argued in the car and began fighting after Metz threatened to tell police of their relationship.
Martinez told detectives he grabbed Metz's neck and held her for "three to five minutes," Wood said in a news release. When he realized she was no longer moving, he drove to Polk County.
He pulled down a side road, carried Metz into the trees, cut off her clothes and drove back to St. Petersburg. He threw away her belongings along the way, authorities said.
Jones said her family has spent the past several days encouraging people in the community to provide any information about the crime to police. Jones said the outpouring from the community has been immense.
Metz was enrolling at Pinellas Technical Education Center. She wanted to become a hairstylist or nurse, Jones said.
"Bria was a lot of things … but she was our child," Jones said. "Every child is important, regardless of their errors."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.