AP NEWS

ORANGE PD calls case ‘stuff of nightmares’

February 21, 2019

Minutes before the violent death of his daughter, Yohavnis Roque sent a series of cryptic messages to a longtime friend.

“He was messaging me weird coded messages about the world ending,” Abner Santiago told The Enterprise. “He wasn’t like this before when I knew him back in Miami.”

In the messages sent at 10:54 a.m. Tuesday, Roque told his friend to start digging because there was going to be “an all out war.”

“What??” Santiago replied. “What do you mean war how will the war start???”

“Now,” Roque wrote. “Can u see the sky.”

About 15 minutes later, according to a probable cause affidavit, Orange police were called to Roque’s residence in the 500 block of Azalea Avenue. They found him naked and covered in blood. His clothes were scattered around the house. His 2-year-old daughter, Savanna, was dead in the closet.

The weapon used, police said, was a hammer.

“In my 29 years of being an officer, this is by far the worst case I have ever seen,” OPD Capt. Robert Enmon said. “It’s the stuff of nightmares.”

Enmon was present Wednesday morning when the 26-year-old suspect made his first appearance in court. Shackled and sitting in a wheelchair, he was arraigned on one charge of capital murder, which is allowed in Texas if the victim is under the age of 10.

Orange County District Judge Courtney Arkeen set his bond at $2 million.

“He kept murmuring things, but I couldn’t really hear what he was saying,” Enmon said. “He did say once that the government made him do it.”

Roque lived in the Azalea Avenue house with his daughter and his mother, next door to other family members. At the time of the homicide, only Roque and Savanna were home, police said. Roque’s mother had left earlier, and returned shortly after. She was the first to find the toddler’s body.

About the same time, a public official came across the police scanner: “I’m being flagged down by a motorist saying that her cousin just killed his daughter. Can you have OPD en route?”

The dispatcher confirms, then says, “We’re still trying to get information. She’s just screaming.”

According to the affidavit, a patrolman’s body camera captured Roque at the scene saying, “I killed my daughter.”

He was the child’s only living parent. Her mother, Rachel Foster, died in June 2016 at 24 when she was struck by an impaired driver, according to media reports in Miami, where the two lived before Roque moved to Orange.

Savanna, who family and friends call Savi, had been born just weeks before her mother’s death.

“The little girl loved to sing and dance,” Foster’s friend Dev Rodriguez told The Enterprise Wednesday. “She definitely took after her mother. (She) deserved to live a happy life. I’m glad she is finally where she was meant to be all along, in her mother’s arms.”

Haley Bruyn contributed to this article.

erica.apodaca@beaumont

enterprise.com