RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — The man accused of kidnapping and killing a 17-year-old girl in Moreno Valley five years ago continued to await trial on Wednesday.
On the morning on July 15, 2010, Norma Lopez, of Moreno Valley, walked to her home located in the 27300 block of Cottonwood Avenue after attending a summer class at Valley View High School.
Lopez was supposed to meet her younger sister and friends at the residence, however, she never made it home.
Around noon, Lopez’s sister, her boyfriend and others went to search for her along a footpath that was used to cut across a field near Quail Creek Drive.
Upon their arrival, an earring, a purse and a folder belonging to Lopez were located in the field. Deputies were then called to the scene to investigate her disappearance.
During a preliminary investigation, authorities focused on a green SUV that was captured on surveillance video speeding away from the area around the time that Lopez disappeared.
The Moreno Valley City Council offered a $35,000 reward for information that lead to Lopez’s safe return.
According to deputies, however, her remains were discovered under brush at the edge of a property on Theodore Street in East Moreno Valley about five days later.
City officials found no evidence of sexual assault, however, Lopez’s shirt and bra were missing at the time of her discovery.
Further investigation led detectives to follow up on more than 2,000 leads in the case, which remained unsolved for about one year.
In September 2011, physical evidence that was lifted from Lopez’s earring produced a hit in the state’s DNA index system of criminal offenders.
According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Jesse Perez Torres, 36, was subsequently arrested and charged with her murder.
At the time of the slaying, Torres lived around the corner from the high school where Lopez attended. Detectives said he is believed to have been watching her on several occasions as she walked home or to friends houses from school.
Authorities explained Torres was also found in possession of a green Nissan SUV that matched the description of the suspect vehicle.
He reportedly sold the car and relocated to Long Beach less than two months after Lopez’s death.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of Lopez’s murder.
Torres is scheduled to appear for a trial-setting conference on July 24 at Riverside Hall of Justice.
If convicted as charged, he faces a death penalty sentence.
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