Flavio Joaquin Velasquez Cardenas, 33, was charged Monday with murder in the death of Patsy Eason Barefoot, 60, whom police found June 27 inside her apartment on Wake Forest Road.
Investigators were able to track Barefoot's silver 2002 Ford Focus to South Florida, and a Raleigh police detective, as well as officers there, detained Cardenas in Coral Gables.
Cardenas was in Miami Tuesday awaiting extradition to North Carolina. It's unclear when that will occur.
Barefoot's sister, Letha Parrish, said Tuesday that the arrest is a relief to her and her family, who have worried that police would never be able to charge anyone in the crime.
"It's just devastated us. I say every night that I just want to hear in the morning that they found someone," Parrish said. "I'm just thankful they found her killer as soon as they did. They did a wonderful job."
Lt. Andy Murr, with the Raleigh Police Department's Major Crimes Division, said investigators had been to Florida three times since the crime following up on leads.
"Their tenacity and methodical investigations in the case have paid off, and we're grateful for where we are at this time," Murr said.
Authorities have not offered a motive for the killing and won't say how Barefoot died. It's also unclear if or how Cardenas knew. Also unclear, is whether he is from North Carolina or Florida or why he might have been in either state.
"Obviously, the investigation is not over," Murr said. "It's just a new phase, but we're thankful we have someone in custody and hopefully to provide a small bit of closure to the Barefoot family."
Investigators believe someone drove Barefoot's car out of the apartment complex around 6:30 p.m. the night before police discovered her body. A neighbor has said that she heard a loud thumping from Barefoot's apartment on the same night.
Parrish said she isn't sure why someone would have wanted to harm her sister – who worked at a local Fresh Market. Barefoot, she said, was a loving person who kept to herself and had recently been sick with diabetes.
"She was so sickly and everything, and she didn't have any enemies that I knew of," Parrish said. "She was just a kind person, and I just can't see why someone would have done that to her."