Rafael Govea Romero, the suspect in Texas 16-year-old Lizbeth Medina’s December 2023 murder, is pleading not guilty, according to his attorney.

Romero, a 24-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, is accused of stalking the Edna High School cheerleader before allegedly striking her over the head and stabbing her in the apartment that she shared with her mother on Dec. 5.

“He entered a plea of not guilty. We look forward to his trial to defend his case. He is innocent,” said Romero’s defense attorney, Chris Iles, after the suspect was arraigned in Jackson County Court on Thursday.

A Jackson County grand jury in February indicted Romero on a capital murder charge in connection with Medina’s death. Medina was found in the bathtub of her apartment with “smeared blood on the sides of her and what appeared to be a stab wound to the upper stomach area,” according to a police affidavit previously obtained by Fox News Digital. 

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Police were able to locate the suspect on Dec. 10 in Schulenburg, Texas, using cellphone data and other evidence tying him to the crime scene.

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At the time of his arrest, Romero was on probation for a burglary in Schulenburg, about 60 miles from Edna, in 2022, as the Fayette County Record first reported.

Edna police believe Romero may also be tied to a burglary that occurred at Medina’s home about a month before her stabbing death.

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The victim’s mother, Jacqueline Medina, left her apartment on the morning of Dec. 5 for work. Her daughter typically left for school afterward, but that day, she neither made it to school nor the Christmas parade that her cheer team was participating in.

Jacqueline went to the parade, expecting to see her daughter, but when she could not find Lizbeth anywhere, she began reaching out to friends and family for help tracking down the 16-year-old. Later that evening, Jacqueline found her daughter dead in their bathtub.

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The grieving mother said neither she nor her daughter knew Romero but noted that their house had been burglarized on Nov. 13, about a month before the teenager’s murder. Edna police officers believe Romero may have been involved in that burglary and may have stalked Lizbeth before allegedly attacking and killing her.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital that ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Houston “lodged an immigration detainer with the Jackson County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office on Rafael Govea-Romero, 24, Mexico, following his arrest for capital murder.”

ICE ERO lodges immigration detainers against noncitizens who have been arrested for criminal activity and taken into custody as part of the agency’s mission to identify and arrest removable illegal immigrants, according to ICE.

Romero’s arraignment was held in Jackson County on Thursday, but the defendant waived his right to appear in person, according to the Jackson County Herald-Tribune.