Was a W. Richland killer grooming his victim in 6th grade? What a WA investigation found

Angelica Santos was in the sixth grade when she started telling friends she had a secret boyfriend.

She said it was Elias Huizar — a 34-year-old Yakima policeman working as a school resource officer at her middle school.

Within the next five years, Huizar lost his police job, got a divorce and had a baby with Santos.

Less than two weeks ago, he stabbed her to death at his home in the Tri-Cities and fled with their 1-year-old son.

The 17-year-old likely was killed the same day that he gunned down his ex-wife at a nearby Tri-Cities school where she worked.

The murders led to a 300-mile, two-state manhunt that ended last week along Interstate 5 in Oregon when Huizar shot and killed himself.

Now, among the many questions being asked, is what police and school officials in Yakima and Richland knew of Huizar’s relationship with Santos and if it began when she was just 12.

The allegations were the focus of a month-long criminal investigation in 2019, resulting in a 105-page report by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

At the time, many officials and her own family members didn’t believe Santos was telling her friends the truth.

The full story of when their sexual relationship began likely will never be known. But recently his grooming of young girls was becoming clearer.

He was charged in February with raping Santos when she was 15 and with raping her teen friend earlier this year.

Angelica Santos was a sixth-grade student when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer. Courtesy Samantha Deluna
Angelica Santos was a sixth-grade student when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer. Courtesy Samantha Deluna

How she met Huizar

Santos and her younger brother grew up in the care of her grandmother, Ann Wells, in Yakima. Santos had limited contact with her mother, who had a history of drug problems and being abusive.

Her father wasn’t around much. He showed up in Yakima in October 2017 while fleeing warrants in Indiana and North Carolina. On Christmas Day 2017, he was killed in a confrontation with Yakima police.

Yakima School District records show Santos started getting into trouble at school in 2018, in her first year at middle school.

A Washington Middle School discipline report from October 2018 attached to the Attorney General’s investigation said she was fighting with another girl.

By January 2019, Santos was suspended twice and she was served with a restraining order to stay away from the other student.

One day when the two girls were at lunch, another fight erupted. The disciplinary records say Santos started the confrontation, and Huizar, the school’s resource officer, stepped between the girls and stopped the fight.

Elias Huizar in 2018. Yakima Police Department
Elias Huizar in 2018. Yakima Police Department

After that, Santos continued to have problems in school with attendance and being disruptive, but no other physical fights were reported.

But that’s also when others started noticing that Santos began hanging around the handsome officer who participated in bodybuilding tournaments and who had broken up her earlier fight, according to school Principal Bill Hilton and Vice Principal Sara Cordova.

Huizar, who joined Yakima police in 2013, had been a school resource officer for about a year and a half. His supervising sergeant, Joseph Deccio, later told investigators he heard positive feedback about Huizar’s work.

However, Hilton acknowledged in the report that there were some questions in the beginning about Huizar’s behavior around students.

“It was reported to him by some teachers that Huizar was making comments such as, ‘I’m your daddy,’ to students,” Hilton told senior AG investigator Bradley Graham.

“Hilton said he counseled Huizar about it — telling him that it was inappropriate humor for the students. He said he felt that Huizar was doing it simply to be funny.”

Cordova also told Huizar to change his Facebook account to a private setting to prevent students from viewing his private pictures.

But Hilton, Cordova and the school’s security officer, Herberto Zuniga, all vouched for Huizar.

Angelica Santos, shown here in an undated photo with her brother, was a sixth-grade student in Yakima when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer. Courtesy Samantha Deluna
Angelica Santos, shown here in an undated photo with her brother, was a sixth-grade student in Yakima when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer. Courtesy Samantha Deluna

‘Dating’ an officer

Hilton said school officials started to notice Santos standing near Huizar before school in the mornings and during the lunch hour.

“(The principal) referred to her as ‘always by (Huizar),’” Graham wrote. “Asked if he spoke with Huizar about it early on, he said he didn’t. He did talk to (Angelica) and her grandmother about it and told the student to stop doing it.”

Then in March 2019, another student reported to school officials that Santos was claiming on the social media app SnapChat that she and Huizar were dating.

“Hilton noted that (the other student) had a history of making false accusations and he didn’t feel it was valid,” Graham wrote.

When he talked to Santos and her grandmother about the message, Santos denied sending it and said her account was hacked, according to the report.

The principal also talked to Huizar about the message, and the officer said Santos “made him uncomfortable and he didn’t want her hanging around him.”

Angelica Santos, pictured here with her family, was a sixth-grade student when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer in 2019. Courtesy Samantha Deluna
Angelica Santos, pictured here with her family, was a sixth-grade student when she told friends that she was dating a Yakima police officer in 2019. Courtesy Samantha Deluna

Hilton didn’t notify school district administrators or Huizar’s supervisor at the police department about the allegations.

“Hilton said, ‘We handled it — we couldn’t verify it.’”

He said school leaders talked more to the other student, who seemed to “back off some” on her statements.

A couple months later in May 2019, some other girls came forward to report Santos was talking about dating Huizar and being sexually active.

Santos told them on SnapChat and in person, that she and the officer had sex in a janitor’s closet at school and at his Yakima home.

The SnapChat messages from a person with the username Lowkeyy were printed out and included in the AG’s report.

Lowkeyy says she had sex with Huizar and shared photos of him without a shirt believed to be from his personal Facebook page.

In the messages, she asked her friends to keep it a secret. But others at school learned about the messages and Santos became despondent and told her friends she wanted to die by suicide.

She also had told a friend at school that she’d been sexually active with Huizar and the girl told her dad.

The father called the vice principal and reported that Santos “was going around school telling people that she lost her virginity to Officer Huizar.”

2019 investigation

This time, school administrators called Yakima police.

Santos was “emergency expelled” from school while they investigated the claims. And Huizar was placed on administrative leave.

Former Yakima Police Officer Elias Huizar, on the left, is accused of raping a teen at a West Richland home. He is pictured here in 2018 with two other resource officers delivering food to families in need. Courtesy Yakima Police
Former Yakima Police Officer Elias Huizar, on the left, is accused of raping a teen at a West Richland home. He is pictured here in 2018 with two other resource officers delivering food to families in need. Courtesy Yakima Police

Yakima Detective Michael Durbin talked with the principal and vice principal along with Child Protective Services. But since Huizar was a Yakima officer, the department asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the allegations.

But even in the early stages of the investigation, Durbin found school officials and her relatives did not believe what Santos posted or told friends.

Santos’ grandmother “told me that she did not believe the ‘poor officer’ did anything with (Angelica) and that she didn’t want to see the officer suffer harm for something that didn’t happen,” Durbin wrote.

The detective told Santos’ grandmother that he couldn’t talk about the details the case, but wanted to make sure that she and Santos had access to programs to support them.

Graham from the AG’s Office took over the investigation in June 2019.

The principal and vice principal told Graham that they had no concerns that Huizar raped any of their students.

They noted that the janitor’s closet at the school was in a public place that was monitored by security cameras. And a live feed of the cameras was visible in the main office and there was only a limited amount of recorded video.

Vice Principal Sara Cordova also told Graham that her husband currently worked as Yakima police captain. The principal didn’t believe that would affect her judgment about the allegations against Huizar.

A GoFundMe was created for Angelica M. Santos, 17, who was killed by her boyfriend Elias Huizar, a 39-year-old former police officer, inside his West Richland home in April 2024. Courtesy GoFundMe
A GoFundMe was created for Angelica M. Santos, 17, who was killed by her boyfriend Elias Huizar, a 39-year-old former police officer, inside his West Richland home in April 2024. Courtesy GoFundMe

Disbelief and denials

Graham also interviewed six students at Washington Middle School.

Each said they had never seen Santos and Huizar together off campus. He asked some if they believed there was a relationship, and they said they didn’t.

Most of the girls said they were no longer friends with Santos because of the allegations.

Santos grandmother told the AG investigator that her granddaughter was a sensitive and caring girl who liked to help the homeless.

She didn’t believe her granddaughter was sexually active and hadn’t shown any sexualized behaviors. And she said there was no opportunity for Santos to got to Huizar’s home because she took the girl to and from school everyday.

“She said this is (Angelica’s) first year in middle school and her granddaughter wasn’t sure she wanted to go there,” said the report. “(Angelica) described it as a ‘dark and scary place.’ She said that having the officer there made her feel safer.”

Nothing Santos had said or done made Wells think she had an inappropriate relationship with Huizar. Santos told her grandmother that she was upset about the other students spreading rumors about her at school.

Santos also denied the rumors when she was interviewed by a law enforcement interviewer who specializes in talking with children. Santos told the interviewer that Huizar is “nice” and “smiles a lot,” but said they were never alone with each other.

“She said (the rumors) came from a group of girls at school who were friends of hers and the girls ‘cause drama,’” said the AG report. “She said the group of girls would fight and make up and fight again and she decided to stop being a friend with them.”

The rumors started after she stopped being their friend, according to the report. She told Graham that the “Lowkeyy” username had been hers once, but it wasn’t anymore.

Findings and aftermath

Graham said he found no other evidence of sexual contact between Santos and Huizar.

He noted that while students reported having conversations with Santos where she claimed to be dating the officer, they had no specific dates or times.

Without any corroborating evidence, the case was dropped in June 2019.

Three months later, in September, Huizar asked a judge for a protection order to keep Santos away from him and his wife and their two kids.

In it, he said his wife, Amber Rodriguez, was receiving strange anonymous phone calls and text messages.

A Yakima investigation uncovered that the messages were coming from Santos, according to his petition for the protection order.

“I was told that Santos wrote a letter at school and she was attempting to give me the letter. From what I was told, she was being inappropriate in the letter,” he wrote in the petition.

The two-year protection order was granted when she was 13 years old.

It’s unclear if they had any contact during that time. But a year later, Huizar’s wife filed for divorce and moved with their two sons to the Tri-Cities, where she worked as a real estate agent. She later became a paraeducator at William Wiley Elementary School in West Richland.

Their divorce paperwork filed in 2020 did not mention Santos.

Four years later in February 2024,when Rodriguez filed for a protection order against her ex-husband, she said she did not know that his current girlfriend, Angelica Santos, was the same girl he had gotten the protection order against years before.

Santos told investigators during a rape investigation involving Huizar and one of Santos’ teen friends that she and Huizar began dating when she was 15 when he contacted her through Facebook.

At that time in 2021, he was reportedly on medical leave for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Yakima Police Department.

Court records show their relationship continued and she had his son in April 2023 when she was 16.

In February 2024, he was accused of raping her teen friend at their West Richland house while she was there. The allegations made police officials question whether Huizar’s sexual relationship with Santos was a crime because of her age.

He was formally charged with raping her friend and also with child rape because of his relationship with Santos. A judge ordered Huizar to stay away from both of them.

Angelica Santos’ body was discovered April 22 inside Elias Huizar’s home on South Highlands Boulevard in West Richland. She was found dead after Huizar shot and killed his ex-wife at a nearby school. Karlee Van de Venter/Tri-City Herald
Angelica Santos’ body was discovered April 22 inside Elias Huizar’s home on South Highlands Boulevard in West Richland. She was found dead after Huizar shot and killed his ex-wife at a nearby school. Karlee Van de Venter/Tri-City Herald

But West Richland police found her body at his home on April 22, 2024, when they were searching for him after he’d shot and killed his ex-wife at the school a block away. It’s unclear if Santos had returned to living there.

Santos’ aunt Samantha Deluna told the Tri-City Herald this week that they didn’t approve of her relationship with Huizar and had talked to her about it.

But Santos had never told them that Huizar was the baby’s father.

Huizar took the boy with him when he fled the Tri-Cities murders. The baby was found safe in his car seat after Huizar crashed along Interstate 5 near Eugene on April 23 and shot himself.

Oregon State Patrol Officers secure 1-year-old Roman Huizar after stopping Elias Huizar near Eugene, Oregon. KEZI 9 News
Oregon State Patrol Officers secure 1-year-old Roman Huizar after stopping Elias Huizar near Eugene, Oregon. KEZI 9 News

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