On the three month anniversary of her murder, 21-year-old Meaghan Casady's parents decided to speak out for the first time. They called the arrest of Jose Gonzalez a "ray of light" in the darkness they've been living in since her death.
"It was like a weight lifted," said Shari Casady, the victim's mother.
"The wait has been horrific. It's been horrible," Russell Casady, the victim's father said.
Early Thursday morning, a deputy delivered the news they had been waiting for. An arrest had finally been made.
Gonzalez, 48, is behind bars without bond and charged with first-degree murder and sexual battery.
"It's bizarre to say - great news they found the murderer of my daughter. But in the new world that we're in, that was great news," Shari said.
But it doesn't erase the memory of that cold morning in January when their daughter's nude body was discovered behind Summerfield Plaza in Riverview.
The medical examiner's office determined the cause of death was homicidal violence, including asphyxiation.
According to Gonzalez's arrest affidavit, Casady left CJ's Saloon with the suspect in the early morning hours. A couple hours later, a deputy saw the two together on Rhodine Road, just east of Hwy 301. The deputy said the victim said she was "ok," but appeared to be intoxicated. The deputy reportedly advised Gonzalez to take her home as soon as possible.
A few hours later, Casady was found dead.
DNA evidence later linked Gonzalez to the murder, according to the affidavit.
Casady's parents still recall what she said before she left that night.
"She said, 'I may not come home. I'll see you guys in the morning. Don't worry,'" Shari recalled.
They never knew it would be the last conversation they ever had.
"It's not going to bring anybody back. It's not going to make this family whole, unfortunately. But at least they can know that they got justice served,' said TJ Grimaldi, the family's attorney.