(UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that Plano Police confirmed at a 4:30 p.m. news conference that the remains were Christina Morris', as first reported by KRLD NewsRadio.)
Human remains found in Collin County are those of Christina Morris, Plano police said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Morris' mother, Jonni McElroy, said that finding her daughter's body is the most difficult thing she and her family has ever had to face. "I just want everyone to know to please respect our privacy," she said. "We need to grieve. We need our time. Just respect us."
"Find Christina," said Morris' sister Sarah. "Giving up is not an option. Can't stop. Won't stop. These are the words that we proclaimed time and time again. We promised Christina we would find her and bring her home. We were determined to keep that promise; 2,185 days after her disappearance Christina was found."
An excavation team found human remains Wednesday morning as they were clearing brush for a housing development in the small town of Anna about 45 miles northeast of Dallas. Police and volunteers previously searched the area in 2014 after Morris went missing from a parking garage in Plano.
Andy Mitchell was checking on his team’s progress and driving down the road in the 1800 block of Taylor Boulevard when he saw what he thought were bones, KRLD reported. He called Anna police.
The Collin County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Wednesday afternoon and said that it had joined with Anna and Plano police to secure the area while Plano detectives collected evidence. “Out of an abundance of caution, we thought it was best to contact Plano PD and let them know that these remains have been found," Lt. Nick Bristow of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office said. “We had an obligation to let them know.”
Morris was last seen walking into a Plano shopping center parking garage about the same time as Enrique Arochi, who told Plano police that he’d been loaded up on Adderall, 10 shots of rum and five or six beers. He was angry, police alleged, because one of his friends declined his sexual advances, so he kidnapped Morris, put her in the trunk of his 2010 Camaro and drove away.
Forty minutes later, he arrived at the house he shared with his mother in Allen. Police later found Morris’ DNA in his car's trunk and her cell phone pinged multiple cell towers on the way to Arochi’s house. Police also dove into his trashcan and found cleaning supplies in Arochi’s trash.
Arochi allowed police to search his car, and police claimed that it appeared to have been recently cleaned. Video surveillance from an Allen Exxon station captured Arochi using a squeegee to wipe down the outside of his car’s trunk. He also had bruises and scratches on his right arm, but he blamed a tire falling on his arm.
Arochi was arrested on an aggravated kidnapping charge and bail was set at $1 million.
At a bond reduction hearing in January 2015, a Plano police detective investigating Morris’ disappearance told prosecutors that she believed Arochi kidnapped and murdered Morris.
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In September 2016, after 17 hours of jury deliberation, Arochi was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison. Morris’ stepmother, Anna Morris, told reporters that the verdict was a relief, and Morris’ mother, Jonni McElroy, was seen leaving the courtroom pumping her fist. “We can breath,” Morris said. “I feel like the right thing happened.”
Arochi later told the Morning News in a jailhouse interview in December 2016 that his character had been slandered. He apologized for not being able to help the family and said, “My family and I are constantly praying for them and for Christina’s well-being.” He said he was innocent.
He’s appealing his conviction.
Thursday morning, Morris’ mother and her friends were spotted by media placing flowers near the site where the remains were found. The spot coincides with a cell tower that Arochi’s cellphone had pinged on the morning of Morris’ disappearance.