Car Connected To Missing Teen, Who Is Believed To Be With Suspected Killers, Located By Mexican Border

Alora Benitez is believed to be with her mother, Maricela Mercado, and Roman Cerratos who are wanted in connection with the killing of Jeffrey Appel.
 

By Gina Tron
Alora Benitez

A car linked to a missing teenager, who is believed to be with two suspected killers including her mother, was located near the Mexican border.

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.

Cerratos is Mercado’s ex-husband, KTLA reported.

Both adults are wanted in connected with the killing of a man was found dead in a white Audi in Carson, California, on Tuesday, officials say. He has been identified as 32-year-old Jeffery Appel, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although his death was initially described as a stabbing, it’s not yet exactly clear how Appel was killed, KTLA reported.

Last week, investigators urged the public to be on the lookout for a white BMW last seen sporting a Nevada license plate, a vehicle they believed the trio were traveling in.

Now, that car has been found unoccupied near the San Ysidro border of Mexico, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department tweeted on Friday night. However, none of the three have been located.

Cerratos and Mercado are considered “armed and dangerous.”

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.

A vigil was held for Benitez on Sunday.

"I just need her back," her father Julian Benitez Jr. told KTLA. "I need her back in my arms."

He described her as "my air and my life."

"Alora, if you’re listening, if you see any of this: Make a run for it. Call 911. Get to a phone. Ask for help. Go where there’s a lot of people," the father said, making a desperate plea for his daughter'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.

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