A man has been sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a 17-year-old California girl who was walking to her friend’s house more than a decade ago.
Jesse Perez Torres, 44, was sentenced to death on Friday for the 2010 murder of Norma Lopez, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office announced.
The teen “was kidnapped on July 15, 2010, as she walked from summer school at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley to a friend’s house,” the press release states. “Five days later, her body was found in a dirt field about three miles away.”
Torres, who lived in the same neighborhood as the slain girl, was arrested charged with the murder in October 2011, a month after trace DNA fragments found in Norma's broken earring led investigators to him, Mercury News reports. The DNA fragments had matched against a DNA sample taken from Torres during an earlier domestic violence arrest.
He was found guilty in March 2019 of first-degree murder and special circumstance of murder during the commission of a felony and jurors handed down a death sentence. On Friday, Judge Bernard J. Schwartz affirmed that decision. While he noted that Torres has an IQ of 68 and grew up with a father in prison, Schwartz said the killer displayed an "utter disregard for human life and is a threat to society."
“The killing of Norma Lopez and the dumping of her body like a piece of garbage can only be described as disgusting,” Schwartz said, according to the Press-Enterprise.
Lopez’s sister read a letter from the family during Friday’s sentencing hearing.
“I took Norma to school that day not knowing it was the last time I will ever see her again,” the letter from Lopez’s mother states. “That’s the day this nightmare started. Without Norma, my house was filled with pain and sadness.”
The sister told the court there isn’t a day that goes that the family doesn’t think about the slain teen.
“They say that time heals everything, but it doesn’t,” she stated. “We just had to learn how to go on with our lives and live with the pain, even though it isn’t easy to do.”
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