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Crime News Breaking News

Teen Girl Missing In California, Believed To Be With Two Suspected Killers

Alora Benitez, 15, was last seen getting into a car with her mother, Maricela Mercado, who is wanted along with Roman Cerratos in the death of Jeffrey Appel.

By Gina Tron
Alora Benitez

Investigators in California are asking the public for help locating a missing 15-year-old girl who is believed to be in the company of two suspected killers, one of whom is her mother.

Alora Benitez, 15, was last seen Wednesday morning in Torrance, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials say. She was seen getting into white 2013 4-door BMW sedan with her mother, 40-year-old Maricela Mercado, and Roman Cerratos, 39. It's not clear what Cerratos' relationship is to Mercado or the teen.

On Tuesday a man was found dead in a white Audi in Carson, California, officials say. He has been identified as 32-year-old Jeffery Appel, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Both Cerratos and Mercado are wanted in connection with the murder and are considered armed and dangerous,” officials state.

While that BMW was last seen sporting a Nevada license plate with the word “MARIMAR” on it, the plate might have been removed from the rear of the vehicle and replaced with an unknown paper plate, officials note.

The sheriff’s department has classified the severity of the situation as “extreme,” meaning there is “extraordinary threat to life or property.” Family members have told law officials that they’re worried about the teen’s safety.

Cerratos is described as Hispanic, standing at 6 foot 1, 210 pounds, bald and brown eyes. Mercado is described as a Hispanic, standing at 5 foot 3, 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Benitez is described as also being Hispanic and as standing at 5 foot 2 and 100 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with tips or leads is urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. To provide information anonymously, one can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS(8477), or by using a smartphone and downloading the “P3” Tips Mobile App on Google Play or the Apple App Store, or by using this website.