When 20-year-old Amanda Snell, a Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, failed to show up for her shift at the Pentagon on July 12, 2009, her supervisor was immediately concerned.
“She was very dedicated to her career so that was extremely unusual for her not to show up to work," Jonathan Fahey, assistant U.S. Attorney, Virginia, told "One Deadly Mistake," airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
A welfare check was performed at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia where Snell lived. When they knocked on her door, no one answered. Since it was unlocked, they ventured in.
The first red flag was that Snell's purse and ID were still in the room. Then, they noticed a horrible odor coming from the closet. Inside they found Snell, dead.
"She wad curled up and she had a pillowcase over her head," Fahey told producers.
It wasn't clear how Snell had died, so they processed the room. They discovered her laptop, phone, iPod, and a bed sheet were missing, and also noted some foot impressions made in the room, indicating a second person had been in there. Since the base was so well-secured, this led authorities to believe if there was a perpetrator, they likely lived or worked there.
Snell's family was devastated. Her mom told "One Deadly Mistake" Snell was a happy, service-oriented person, who was extremely excited because she would next be stationed in Korea. Investigators interviewed her circle and couldn't find anyone who would want to harm her. Her death just didn't make sense.
An autopsy later revealed Snell likely died from some form of asphyxiation, like strangulation or smothering. However, due to the lack of trauma to the body and the decomposition (they estimated she was killed shortly after she was last seen alive two days earlier), the official cause of death was labeled undetermined.
The autopsy did reveal a clue: There were abrasions on her knee.
"That was very important because the injuries suggested she had been moved after she was dead and possibly dragged across the floor," Patty Esposito, supervisory special agent, NCIS, explained to producers.
At the scene, investigators found semen on the bed, so they were able to create a DNA profile of the possible perpetrator. They also identified the shoe impressions as Nike Air Force 1s, which didn't help as much as they hoped, as the shoe style was very popular on the base at the time.
Without much evidence to go on, progress stalled in the case for over a year — until more women were attacked in Arlington.
In February 2010, three miles from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, two young women were returning home from a night out when a man approached them claiming he had a gun. He attacked them and forced one of the women into his SUV, drove her to a secluded area, and beat and sexually assaulted her in the backseat of the car. He then tied a scarf around her throat until she lost consciousness, dragged her body out into the woods, and left her for dead.
Luckily, the woman managed to survive and was found the next day. She described the perpetrator as a short, clean-shaven, young Latino male driving a silver SUV. An alert for the vehicle was sent out, and one police officer noted it matched the description of a suspicious-looking driver he had seen earlier seemingly watching people leaving the metro station.
He had ran the driver's plates and saw he didn't have a record, so he didn't approach him. He did have the driver's information, though, and identified him as Jorge Torres. Torres lived at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, just doors down from Snell.
Authorities tracked down Torres and the evidence found in his car was damning. The rape victim's student ID and her earring were located in the backseat, effectively linking him to that crime. They then searched his barracks, hoping to find something to tie him to Snell's murder. They found a handgun and a computer, on which they found porn about women being sexually assaulted and tortured.
They also found Nike Air Force 1s. They matched the shoe impressions found on the scene of Snell's death.
Torres' DNA ended up being a match for DNA found on the rape victim's body. He was charged with kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder in that case. It also matched the semen found on Snell's bedsheet.
While in jail awaiting trial, authorities got a tip from a jailhouse informant who told them Torres was bragging about killing Snell. The informant agreed to wear a wire and captured Torres' unsettling confession.
“She woke up, saw me, but she couldn’t believe her own eyes," he said, according to audio obtained by "One Deadly Mistake." “I jumped down and covered her mouth before she could start screaming.”
He added he couldn't "let her go in case she recognized me" so he tied her up with her laptop cord. “So I choked her about another two minutes that way," he said. "[...] “Now I’ve got a body to deal with ... luckily enough she had room in the bottom of her f--king closet."
The confession chilled investigators. But in an even more shocking twist, after running Torres' DNA through a database, they matched him to another horrific crime: the murder of two little girls in 2005 in Illinois: Laura Hobbs, 8, and Krystal Tobias, 9. They were found stabbed to death and had been sexually assaulted, Chicago CBS reported in 2010. Hobbs' father had been accused of the crime and spent five years in jail until his name was cleared and Torres was identified as the killer.
“I think we stopped a serial killer. I believe Torres was very predatory and there would have been more attacks," Jim Stone, a detective for the Arlington Co. PD, told "One Deadly Mistake."
Torres was eventually convicted of murdering Snell and also convicted in the Arlington attacks and Illinois murders. He was sentenced to death.
“What’s important to know about Torres is he took great joy in these crimes. These crimes were absolutely horrific crimes, cold-blooded murders done in the most callous and calculated way and he had no remorse whatsoever," Fahey concluded.
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