RIVERSIDE (CBS) — A man arrested in connection with the abduction and murder of 17-year-old Norma Angelica Lopez was released from Riverside County jail Monday because the District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against him, but he was immediately taken back into custody on the same allegations.
Jesse Perez Torres, 35, of Long Beach, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of murder and kidnapping to commit rape. However, the 48-hour period for which a jail detainee can be legally held without violating his constitutional right to speedy arraignment lapsed, and because there had been no action by the D.A.’s office, Torres was set free this afternoon — at least for a moment.
Sheriff’s investigators re-arrested him on the spot on suspicion of murder and kidnapping, according to Deputy Angel Ramos. Bail information was not immediately available.
“We’re still reviewing the case. No filing decision has been made,” District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said. “I can tell you there won’t be an arraignment tomorrow.”
He would not disclose what might be holding up a decision on charges.
Torres’ arrest was announced during a news briefing outside Moreno Valley City Hall Friday.
“We are confident we have the (right) suspect in custody. The community can breathe a sight of relief,” Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. John Anderson, Moreno Valley’s police chief, told reporters.
He refused to divulge any details about the Long Beach man’s arrest, saying it might jeopardize the prosecution’s case.
According to published reports, Torres lived within a block of Valley View High School at the time of Norma’s murder.
The teenager was taken while crossing a field used as a shortcut between the school and Cottonwood Avenue on July 15, 2010.
After finishing a morning summer session class, she headed out alone across the open space, intending to
meet up with her boyfriend, younger sister and friends at a residence in the 27300 block of Cottonwood Avenue.
Around noon, the teen was reported missing, and deputies located her personal items strewn across the field, indicating a struggle.
Her remains were discovered five days later, about 2 1/2 miles away, on an unpaved section of Theodore Street in a sparsely populated area of east Moreno Valley.
A man preparing to mow his front lawn saw the teen’s body under a tree. A makeshift memorial marks the spot.
The case attracted national attention and inspired local residents to organize searches, fundraisers and memorials for the girl, who would have graduated from Valley View in June.
In an interview earlier this year, Anderson told City News Service that investigators identified several “persons of interest” in the weeks following Norma’s death, but none of them panned out.
The focus was initially on a green sport utility vehicle, which witnesses reported speeding away from the area of Norma’s abduction.
Anderson later acknowledged that the clue was too vague to be of much use.
None of Norma’s family members were familiar with Torres. Her father, Martin Lopez, said shortly after his daughter’s death that he believed she knew the person who killed her.
Anderson encouraged anyone with information about the case to contact sheriff’s Detective James Merrill at (951) 955-2777.
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