Month-long search for grandmother and granddaughter comes to tragic end
Just over one month after 48-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez Rubio and her granddaughter, 12-year-old Angie Carolina Rodriguez Rubio, were abducted by a man their family once counted as a friend, the search to bring them home has come to a tragic conclusion.
On Thursday, September 6, police confirmed that their remains had been recovered in Shenandoah County and the Shenandoah National Park.
Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst, with the approval of the Rodriguez Rubio family and the Harrisonburg Police Department, got Hareton Jamie Rodriguez Sariol, their abductor, to enter into a plea agreement to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.
That plea agreement ensured that Sariol led detectives to the bodies. Had he been convicted of capital murder, which is often the charge for murders committed in the process of an abduction, he would have likely faced the death penalty. Instead, his sentencing will come with a maximum of life in prison and no less than 20 years for each count.
Sariol will face indictment by a grand jury in Rockingham County on September 17.
According to United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen of the Western District of Virginia, he may face additional federal charges from the FBI, however, because his crimes occurred, in part, within the Shenandoah National Park.
Garst thanked the "excellent police work by the Harrisonburg Police Department that made this resolution possible" and urged people to respect the privacy of the Rodriguez Rubio family and keep them in their prayers.
Elizabeth and Angie had been last seen at Dukes Plaza in Harrisonburg on Sunday, August 5. Sariol, who police said had grown increasingly obsessed with Elizabeth, was supposed to give them a ride to their home in Maryland after some time visiting family in Virginia.
But they never arrived.
Family members investigated for themselves and found no sign of either of them at the Maryland house. When they saw reports that the car Sariol picked Elizabeth and Angie up in had been found fully engulfed in flames on Interstate 66 early Monday morning, the family contacted police. On Tuesday, August 7, an AMBER Alert was issued.
By that evening, Sariol was arrested in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, driving a tractor trailer. He was held there until being transferred to the Rockingham County Jail on two counts of abduction just days ago. More charges are now pending against him.
In the weeks of searching after the abduction, police tracked Sariol's car from Dukes Plaza to the Burgess Rd. shopping center to Route 11 in Mauzy to a number of back roads in Rockingham County and back to Harrisonburg.
From that point, they believe he headed east on Route 33 to the Ruckersville, Somerset and Orange County areas, and then to the western side of Spotsylvania County near Lane Anna.
At one point in recent weeks, deputies with the Orange County Sheriff's Office searched a section of the county on horseback after tracing cell phone pings to the area.
Between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 5, Sariol's car was seen on the shoulder of Interstate 81 somewhere between mile markers 251 and 256.
By Monday morning, the car was found fully engulfed in flames on Interstate 66 near mile marker 2.
According to Sgt. Les Tyler, with Virginia State Police, there was no evidence of foul play in that car fire, but the cause remained under investigation. When police arrived to the scene, no one was found in or around the vehicle. According to family, Hareton's cell phone was also found destroyed.
That car was sent to the Harrisonburg Police Department to be analyzed for evidence.
Sariol was then seen driving a 2000 Volvo tractor trailer, owned by AMG Express, which he took on I-81 from Mount Crawford to Harrisonburg and Mount Jackson and then north to New York before his arrest in Lakawanna County, Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening.
All available resources with the Harrisonburg Police Department were dedicated to the search for weeks, including drones to record aerial imagery, ground searches throughout Harrisonburg and surrounding areas, K9 units used for search and rescue, as well as evidence collection, and follow-up interviews with all known associates of Elizabeth, Angie, and Sariol.
Hareton, according to a previous profile by the Church World Service, worked as a police officer in Cuba before he immigrated to the U.S. years ago.
In 2016, Church World Service provided employment services to him. They had also provided employment services to Elizabeth from 2015-2016.
She came to the United States from Colombia years ago as a refugee and had been an active member of the Harrisonburg community in her church. They say she always dressed elegantly and that she was very smart, sweet and pleasant. Members of her church were praying since her disappearance for the safe return of Elizabeth and Angie.
"We were extremely concerned to learn that Elizabeth and Angie are missing," Church World Service said in a statement to WHSV in the days after the AMBER Alert. "We are praying for their safety and hope that they are swiftly located and returned home."
A wide range of law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation and search, including the Virginia State Police, FBI, Secret Service, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Us Marshals Service, National Park Service, VDOT, and a large number of county sheriff's offices from Virginia through Pennsylvania along Sariol's path. The Harrisonburg Police Department led the investigation.
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