Police have confirmed that human remains found on Wednesday in a field in Anna, Texas, are those of Christina Morris, who vanished in 2014 from a suburban Dallas shopping center and whose kidnapper was convicted 18 months ago.
Morris, who was 23 at the time she went missing, had last been seen alive on surveillance video walking with a man into the parking garage of the upscale Shops at Legacy in Plano in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, 2014.
Authorities later identified the man as Enrique Arochi, now 27, a former acquaintance of Morris. He is serving a life sentence for aggravated kidnapping after his September 2016 conviction in connection with her disappearance, court records show.
But Morris’ final fate had remained a mystery until Wednesday, when workers stumbled across her remains while clearing a field that had been a focus of earlier, unsuccessful searches.
“I know my daughter, our daughter, is in a better place,” her mother, Jonnie Hare, said at a Thursday news conference at Plano Police headquarters, where authorities confirmed her death, according to local TV station KDFW.
A call by PEOPLE to the Collin County District Attorney’s Office in Texas, to ask if Arochi might face additional charges in Morris’ death, was not immediately returned.
Texas Department of Corrections records show that Arochi is eligible for parole on the aggravated kidnapping charge in 2044. He has appealed his conviction.
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During Arochi’s trial on the kidnapping charge, his defense attorney, Keith Gore, had objected in his closing argument to the state’s sole focus on his client. “There’s no evidence of what, when, where or how,” he said.
But prosecutors had the surveillance video that showed Morris, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Arochi walking together at 3:55 a.m the day Morris disappeared.
Three minutes later, Arochi’s 2010 Chevrolet Camaro pulled out of the garage, they said. An hour after that, cell tower data indicated that separate cell phones carried by the pair were still together.
Prosecutors also told jurors that Morris’ DNA was found on the mat in the trunk of Arochi’s car. Police found Morris’ vehicle in the parking garage three days later, after she was reported missing.
However, Arochi’s defense challenged the DNA finding and presented an expert who testified that the cell tower data could be unreliable.
Defense attorney Gore also suggested that police overlooked the possible involvement in Morris’ disappearance of her boyfriend, Hunter Foster, who is serving a 33-month federal prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute the drug MDMA.
Foster testified during Arochi’s trial that he was given immunity from further criminal prosecution in exchange for his testimony about Morris. On the stand, he reportedly said he was dealing drugs the night and early morning before Morris disappeared and wasn’t with her, though they were texting.
A prosecutor said at the time that Foster was not a suspect, according to the Dallas Morning News.
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Prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry told jurors — who deliberated for 17 hours before reaching a verdict on the kidnapping charge — that they didn’t have to agree on what happened to Morris after her abduction to determine who committed it.
“Where is Christina Morris? We don’t know,” he said at the time. “There’s only one reasonable explanation to all the facts: that the defendant is responsible for the disappearance of Christina Morris.”
He added: “DNA evidence is what puts Morris in that trunk.”