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Former boyfriend arrested in death of missing woman

Sunday, August 21, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- Police discovered the remains of a missing pregnant woman and quickly arrested the father of her unborn child Saturday, ending an exhaustive, monthlong search.

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said Stephen Poaches would be charged with two counts of murder and related offenses for the deaths of 24-year-old LaToyia Figueroa and her fetus.

Authorities did not provide a motive or say what led them to suspect Poaches, 25, who police said was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a pistol when he was arrested.

The remains were recovered in a grassy, partially wooded lot in Chester, 13 miles from Philadelphia. A few dozen members of the Figueroa family and supporters arrived at the scene shortly after daybreak, clustering close to the police tape and embracing each other.

"Now she can rest in peace," said the woman's father, Melvin Figueroa. "All I want is justice with that peace."

The woman's uncle, Jose Figueroa, said as terrible as the discovery of the body was, it puts an end to the weeks of fear and not knowing about LaToyia, who was five months pregnant at the time of the disappearance. "We can actually try to go back to a normal life," he said.

Relatives and friends have papered the city with flyers and held large-scale searches for any sign of Figueroa, recently marking one month since her disappearance. A reward fund for information had reached $100,000, including donations from the restaurant where she worked.

Poaches' lawyer, Michael Coard, has repeatedly spoken to journalists on behalf of his client, including national television appearances in which he noted that Poaches has spoken to investigators voluntarily and that he has consented to have his home and his vehicle searched.

Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said Saturday that Coard's public relations moves would not hold up.

"He has an attorney who has basically tried this case in the news media and has depicted him to be innocent. We are saying today that he is not innocent and we are going to convict him and he will go to whatever he deserves to get," Johnson said.

Coard did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment after Saturday's news conference.

Figueroa, who also is the mother of a 7-year-old girl, was last seen on the afternoon of July 18 in West Philadelphia.


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