Gerard Lopes, 21, who also goes by the last name Belmonte, will be charged with first-degree murder in the death of Natalie Belmonte. (Published Thursday, Jul 21, 2011)
The adopted son of a missing Pembroke Pines real estate agent, who disappeared Sunday, was arrested in connection to the case on Wednesday, police said.
Gerard Lopes, 21, who also goes by the last name Belmonte, will be charged with first-degree murder. Authorities wouldn't go into details about the investigation.
Authorities said Lopes is the first cousin of Natalie Anne Belmonte, 43, who was last seen alive around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. She legally adopted him years ago.
Police located a body Wednesday in a wooded and marshy area near Northwest 196th Avenue and Taft Street, and they believe it to be Belmonte. Authorities are waiting for exact confirmation from the Medical Examiner’s Office. But they said the body has visible signs of trauma.
Police have been searching for her the past three days. She was last seen alive on Sunday after returning to her home in the 19300 block of Northwest 5th Street after attending a social gathering, police said.
"This is a difficult time when something like this happens and our thoughts got out to her family," neighbor Al Quintana said. "We want people to remember her as a kind, thoughtful person who was passionate about her work, real estate, her family, her children and she was just really, a god person."
According to online court records, Lopes faced a grand theft charge in 2008. Other records show that he was accused of stealing $20,000 in jewelry belonging to Belmonte, The Miami Herald reported.
Meanwhile, Pembroke Pines Police, joined by Miramar Police, the Broward Sheriff's Office and members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spent most of Monday and Tuesday searching for Belmonte.
On Monday, police confiscated the contents of a dumpster behind a Publix in the area of Sheridan Street and 194th Street, but refused to describe the contents, only saying that they pointed to foul play.
Late Tuesday, Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Dan Rakofsky said they'd shifted their investigation from a missing person search to a possible homicide.
Police are still looking for anyone who may have seen a red or maroon Lexus ES model that was seen in the neighborhood where Belmonte lives between 5:16 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. Sunday morning.
There is currently a $1,000 reward in the case for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call Broward CrimeStoppers at 954-493-TIPS.