Almost 25 years after boyle Heights teen’s murder, DNA leads to arrest

Almost 25 years after a boyle Heights teenager was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted, authorities say they identified the man who killed her and dumped her body in a ravine.

Gladys Arellano’s partially clad body was discovered on January 30, 1996 in the Topanga Canyon. An autopsy concluded that the 17-year-old had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.

Monday, prosecutors charged Jose Luis Garcia, 42, with murder in the girl’s death. He was 19 when the crime happened.

Elizabeth Arellano, Gladys’ sister, said on Wednesday the latest developments in the case still looked incredible.

“It was pretty surreal, and now, right now, it still seems to me – I don’t know if this is really happening or not – but I’m looking forward to justice,” Arellano said during a press conference in downtown Los Angeles County. Palace of Justice.

When Gladys’ body was found, the DNA taken as evidence was uploaded to state and federal databases. No correspondence with his killer was identified at the time, and the case remained unsolved for decades.

There are about 15,000 unsolved homicides in Los Angeles County, according to Sheriff Lt. Hugo Reynaga, and investigators got a break in the Gladys case last year.

On November 10, Garcia was arrested by Los Angeles Police on suspicion of domestic violence. During his reservation, Garcia’s DNA was collected and uploaded to a state database. It matched the 1996 murder sample, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives from the Homicide Bureau’s Unsolved Cases Unit were alerted.

In February, the det. Joe Purcell and Shaun McCarthy interviewed Garcia about Gladys’ death at his Fontana home. The two were living “nearby” when the girl went missing, Reynaga said, although it was not immediately clear if there was another connection between them.

When detectives interviewed Garcia earlier this year, they collected an additional DNA sample to undergo forensic testing. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, treatment has been delayed, Reynaga said.

In July or August, with Garcia’s last DNA sample still being handled, detectives learned he had moved to Dallas. Last month, after his DNA again matched the 1996 case, he was arrested in Texas by federal law enforcement officials.

Garcia was extradited to California last week and was arraigned on Monday. He is being held in lieu of a $ 1 million bond.

“I really felt anger now that we have a face and a name …” Arellano said of his sister’s murder.

Samantha Moreno, Gladys’ niece and goddaughter, said her aunt had “a beaming smile” and was beautiful and smart. She would have been 42 on Saturday, Moreno said.

“Recognizing your life is important,” Moreno said at the briefing. “The beautiful souls of Boyle Heights should never be forgotten. Acts of violence against women should never be forgotten.

Another cold case from 1996 recently took a hiatus from using DNA evidence, with the arrest in August of a suspect in the brutal rape and the death of a 67-year-old woman at her Covina nursing home. Sheriff’s deputies assisted local law enforcement in the investigation.

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