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May 7, 2021

Murder suspect dead from suicide

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Watsonville man arrested last month for allegedly killing his stepdaughter 16 years ago in Florida has died after severing the femoral artery in his leg while in jail and suffering hemorrhagic shock, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said Tuesday.

Raul Mata, 46, had been in a hospital since Sept. 28, the day he attempted suicide, Keehn said.

He was facing first-degree murder charges for the death of his stepdaughter, Dilcia Mejia.

According to the Miami-Dade Police Department, officers responded to a call of an unconscious female on Sept. 17, 2004. The officers contacted Mata, who directed them to the lifeless body of the 15-year-old girl. Dilcia had a laceration to her neck, which led the Medical Examiner’s office to rule the case a homicide.

No arrest was made at the time, but investigators continued to develop the case. Investigators used DNA taken from the victim’s body, which led to a positive match identifying Mata as the primary suspect in the case, MDPD said.

At the time of the arrest Mata was an employee at Watsonville Community Hospital.

Mata was being held without bail in Santa Cruz County Jail as he awaited extradition to Miami-Dade County.

Mata’s injury was identical to that of James Kohut, the former Santa Cruz neurosurgeon who was facing dozens of child sex crimes when he made an incision in his left groin, cutting his femoral artery and bled to death.

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