It was the type of romance that could be found in high schools throughout America.
Aaron Trejo, 16, was a football player and Breana Rouhselang, 17, a cheerleader.
They’d known each other since primary school and then, at Mishawaka High School in Indiana, romance had blossomed during training and matches.
One thing the young pair had in common was sport. Trejo was skilled on the pitch and, as well as being a cheerleader, Breana also managed the school’s football team and excelled at softball and basketball. She had plans to study athletic training in college after graduation.
But unlike typical teenagers, Trejo and Breana hadn’t gushed about each other on social media, and many friends and family didn’t even know they were having a relationship despite the fact they were having sex. It seemed like a casual affair, but it was about to get more serious.
Towards the end of 2018, Breana was distracted. Usually studious, her teachers were noticing that her grades were slipping.
Breana had something on her mind – she’d discovered she was pregnant. Torn about what to do, the teen allowed the weeks to go by before she told Trejo about the baby.
By the time Breana revealed her secret to Trejo, she was six months pregnant and was past the 22-week Indiana state cut-off date to have an abortion – so that wasn’t an option.
Although we can’t be sure what Breana was thinking, it would suggest she wanted the baby to be born.
But Trejo was left reeling. He was annoyed that Breana had left it so late. Neither of them were ready to have a baby and they weren’t even going steady.
Now they faced the most grown-up situation of their lives. They talked on and off about what to do. Adoption was on the table but Trejo wasn’t sure how his family would react to that decision. Trejo spent a week coming up with a solution and arranged to meet Breana to put the plan into action.
On Saturday 8 December, Breana told her mum, Melissa Wallace, that she was going to meet Trejo in an alleyway behind their home. They lived a few roads away from each other.
It was a cold night as she headed out around 11pm. Melissa went to sleep but woke up a couple of hours later and realised that her daughter hadn’t returned.
She hurried to Trejo’s house to find out if Breana was there and he said she hadn’t shown up where they’d planned to meet. Trejo said he’d lost his phone so couldn’t even get any messages from Breana explaining where she’d gone.
Melissa called Breana’s other friends and searched the area before calling the police. In the alleyway where Breana and Trejo had arranged to meet, officers found glasses and a hat with blood on – they belonged to Breana. Concern for her wellbeing escalated. Had she been attacked while waiting for Trejo?
The search widened and there was a devastating discovery. In the early hours of 9 December, the body of a young woman was found in a rubbish bin behind the local Pasquale Rulli Pizza restaurant, just a block away from Breana’s home.
A black plastic rubbish bag covered the victim’s head and upper torso – but when it was removed, investigators knew it was Breana.
The youngster had died from multiple stab wounds and her scarf had been tied tightly around her neck revealing that she had also been strangled before her death. Breana’s unborn baby had died, too.
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Naturally, Trejo was identified as a potential suspect and was brought in for questioning. He stuck to the same story that he’d given Melissa – and the police when they’d been searching for Breana. But before long, his story changed and he admitted that he’d killed his pregnant lover.
Trejo admitted that he’d been angry with Breana for waiting too late to tell him about the baby, meaning that abortion wasn’t an option.
Trejo thought about killing her for a week, before arranging to meet her. He took a knife from his family home, because he thought it would kill her quickly, and a black plastic rubbish bag. After stabbing Breana he recalled her body dropping to the ground. Trejo put Breana’s body in a dumpster and threw the knife and Breana’s phone as far as possible into a river.
“I took action…” Trejo said. “I took her life.”
Trejo was charged as an adult for the murder of Breana and her unborn baby and he pleaded not guilty. He was heading for a trial.
Meanwhile, memorials quickly grew for Breana. Friends and family remembered her as a sweet, genuine girl who wanted to help others. Breana’s family called her unborn baby Aurora. One victim’s life had ended too soon and the other’s hadn’t even been given the chance to start.
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In October 2019, Trejo had a surprise change of plea. He pleaded guilty to murder and feticide – the unlawful killing of an unborn baby. He also agreed to waive his rights to appeal a conviction and sentence.
In January 2020, at the sentencing, Trejo’s lawyers referred to his age and lack of maturity when he committed the act at just 16.
Experts testified to say that the student have felt “trapped” by the situation, which caused repressed anger and hostility. But the extreme violence used by Trejo, now 19, and the planning that went into the kill were hard to ignore.
The prosecution said that most people in the court had been 16 at some point and under pressure and they hadn’t thought about killing someone.
“The goal of the defendant in this case was to kill the child and Breana was in the way of that so he killed her in order to accomplish that,” they said.
Trejo took the opportunity to make a statement. “There is no excuse for what I’ve done,” he said. “Saying I’m sorry wouldn’t be enough, but it’s all I can give.”
He appeared to be trying to hold back tears but none fell, which prompted Breana’s family to accuse him of having no remorse. Breana’s mum, Melissa, talked about the devastation of losing her daughter and the granddaughter she never got to meet. She spoke about the sense of failure she felt over being unable to protect them.
“Life goes on but for me it’s put on hold until I see her in heaven,” she said tearfully, adding that the day her daughter’s life ended, hers did too.
Classmates talked about the disbelief of having been to school with Trejo without ever imagining he had the capacity to kill one of their own. And Breana’s dad, David, wearing a picture of his daughter around his neck, pushed for a harsh sentence, saying Trejo had no regret for what he’d done.
Trejo was sentenced to 65 years in prison – 55 for Breana and another 10 for their unborn baby. Two lives had been lost in the attack and that was acknowledged. Loved ones in court were dressed in T-shirts that read “Justice for Bre” and had a picture of Breana on the back. They hugged at the news of the long sentence.
The judge said, “You took her life in one of the most savage and violent manners I have seen in my career.” She reiterated that many teenagers feel the same way about an unplanned pregnancy but they do not commit violent crimes like Trejo had done. It was no justification
for his actions. “You had so many other options,” she told him. Trejo could be in his eighties by the time he’s released.
Outside court, Melissa was relieved – but whatever the outcome, it was never going to be a win for the grieving mother.
“I’m glad we got justice for Bre, but no amount of time will ever replace what he took from me,” she said. “It’s like living a nightmare every day.”
Breana had been ready to face up to her responsibilities and find the best solution for her baby. But Trejo wanted all his problems to quickly go away and when he walked to that meeting place with a knife that fateful night, he was making a devastating decision for them all.
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