The father of Hania Aguilar, the 13-year-old girl who was abducted, raped and killed in North Carolina last month, was unable to attend his late daughter’s funeral because a temporary visa request to travel from Guatemala to the U.S. was denied.
According to CNN, US Embassy officials declined Noé Aguilar’s request because he “didn’t have enough ties to his home country, Guatemala,” an explanation the father’s attorney Naimeh Salem contests.
“That is not true,” Salem told the news outlet. “He has family there and his own business.”
Hania was kidnapped outside her mobile home in Lumberton, North Carolina on the morning of Nov. 5. She waiting for a relative to drive her to school when a man, now identified as 34-year-old Michael Ray McLellan, forced her into a family member’s car, which she had earlier turned on. Authorities and community members searched for the teen’s body, which was found in a body of water in Robeson County on Nov, 27, for weeks.
During her funeral on Saturday, hundreds gathered to say goodbye to Hania, including school officials, classmates and friends who tearfully sang songs, recited poetry and read letters. But her father, who stayed connected with his late daughter through phone calls and letters, was not present.
“I had hoped they would find it in their hearts to let me be there for my daughter’s funeral,” Aguilar told CNN in a brief phone interview Friday.
During the service, a letter he wrote to Hania was read aloud.
“You were and you are my treasure,” he said. “Rest in peace, daughter, my gorgeous princess. … You were gone before me, my gorgeous princess.”
Hours before the funeral, McLellan was arrested in connection to Hania’s killing. The man, who has been linked to another sexual assault in 2016, faces 10 felony charges, including murder, forcible rape, statutory rape, kidnapping and larceny.
He is currently being held at the Robeson County Detention Center, where he was denied bond, and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.