Details of Disappearance Margarette was last seen inside her family's Arlington, Texas residence during the morning hours of October 11, 2001. She has never been heard from again. She was a senior at Sam Houston High School at the time of her disappearance.
Margarette's adoptive father, Gabriel Emilio Cuauhtli, reported her as a runaway. A photograph of Gabriel is posted with this case summary. Margarette's classification was changed from endangered runaway to endangered missing by the end of October 2001.
Gabriel claimed that his daughter was abducted by members of the Mexican Mafia and sold into prostitution. He said that men with shaved heads arrived at his home on Port Phillip Drive in Arlington and demanded ransom money in exchange for Margarette's release. Investigators stated that they believed Gabriel's version of events was fictitious.
Gabriel claimed that he received several e-mails from Margarette after her disappearance. He said that the messages were sent from Mexico between October 2001 and February 2002. A photo of Margarette and another girl posing in front of a Mexican church was allegedly attached to one of her e-mails.
Officials analyzed the image and determined that it was fraudulent. Authorities traced the e-mails and concluded that the messages had been sent from Gabriel's office computer. He was employed as a fraud investigator at Chase Bank on East Border Street at the time.
Gabriel was arrested on suspicion of abducting his daughter in April 2002. He was released shortly thereafter on bail. Margarette's uncle provided a 2001 videotaped statement by his niece, which included her allegations of abuse against her father.
Gabriel claimed that Margarette lied during the taping, and maintained his innocence in her disappearance. He insisted that he recorded telephone conversations with Margarette after October 2001 and handed the tapes over to authorities. Investigators denied that the recordings existed.
Authorities arrested Gabriel in June 2002 and charged him with evidence tampering and fraud. The latter charges stemmed from alleged embezzlement from Chase Bank and are unrelated to Margarette's disappearance.
Gabriel's wife, Margarette's mother Nannette Cuauhtli, supported him and stated that she never believed her husband had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance. Margarette's older brother testified that Margarette told him she wanted to run away because her father was physically and emotionally abusing her.
Gabriel was convicted of the embezzlement charges in May 2004. During the sentencing phase of his trial, he pleaded guilty to theft and tampering with evidence. The kidnapping charge was dropped as part of his plea agreement.
Gabriel is presently incarcerated. Authorities searched for Margarette's body at his former residence in 2006, digging under a concrete patio that was poured just days after her disappearance, but the search turned up no evidence. She remains missing and her case is unsolved.
- Arlington Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 7, 2011; age-progression updated.