Who was Stacy Duke? Teen's family reflects on murder investigation

Stacy Duke is seen in a photo she sent home to her family last year. Her body was found in a south Bakersfield, Calif., garage on April 10, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

It's been just over a week since police found 15-year-old Stacy Duke's body in a south Bakersfield garage.

The Kern County District Attorney's Office has charged 23-year-old Gerardo Rodriguez with the girl's murder. The District Attorney's Office also believes he raped or attempted to rape Duke.

Several days after her death, the coroner's office said Duke was strangled.

As the murder investigation continues, little remains known about the girl.

Friends and acquaintances said they knew her by a different name. They believed her name was Angelica Cortez and that she was 22 years old. Many people also thought she was an orphan.

"She was just a 15-year-old kid. She wasn’t a 22-year-old. Everything bad that these negative people are saying about her, they don’t know her. All I hear is negative, bad things, and she was none of that," said Debbie Duke, girl's aunt.

"They keep saying she was an orphan, but she stayed in contact with her family all the time," said Stacy Duke's father, Charles Duke.

On Tuesday, Eyewitness News sat down with the girl's family, which lives in San Bernardino County.

"She's a 15-year-old girl, beautiful young girl, who had her whole life to live, and now her life is taken," Debbie Duke said. "She can’t have a life to live now. She can never grow up to get married, have children or any of that."

Family said both of Duke's parents are alive. She has three siblings, aunts, uncles and many cousins.

"She was loved, very much so, by us all, and she knew it, she knew she was loved, and she loved all of us," said Joyce Duke, the girl's grandmother.

After Stacy Duke's true identify was revealed, it left questions about how she ended up in Bakersfield.

Family said Stacy Duke was in foster care since she was 10. Her parents are divorced, and Child Protective Services took her out of her mother's custody. Family said they believe Stacy Duke's mother is currently in jail on drug-related charges, but they do not stay in close communication.

Stacy Duke's father said his daughter was living in group homes and moved a few times between Bakersfield and Nevada.

"I've been doing all kinds of classes and stuff trying to get her to come home, and just waiting for her to come home, and now she's not coming home," Charles Duke said.

The family said Stacy Duke was constantly running away from the group homes. She would get in fights with the other girls, and by the age of 12 the family said Duke had been to juvenile hall twice.

"She would run away from there (group homes) thinking that maybe they would let her come home if she kept doing it," Charles Duke said.

The family said they would talk to Stacy Duke every few weeks, and she would let them know that she was OK.

"I'd ask her and say, 'Well, where you at Stacy,' and she'd say, 'I had to leave,' and she said, 'I just want to come home,' and I told her, 'Well, you’ve got to go back, and you’ve got to do exactly what they tell you to do so you can come home," Joyce Duke said.

The girl's family said they still have a lot of questions about what happened to her.

"I haven’t slept in a week, I just don’t know what happened," Joyce Duke said.

"It's a feeling that no one should ever have to feel, ever have to feel, to know that she was murdered," Debbie Duke said.

Duke's aunt said, "I want the person who did this to her, I want them to pay for what they have done to her. There is nothing that she could have done to deserve this."

The family has created a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs. That link can be found here.

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