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Family of slain Moreno Valley teen relieved over arrest in case

October 21, 2011 | 12:55 pm

Moreno Valley Police Chief John Anderson on Friday confirmed that police have arrested a 35-year-old Long Beach man in connection with the murder of Norma Lopez, a 17–year-old high school student who was abducted last year while walking home from school.

Anderson declined to discuss details about the investigation that led to Thursday’s arrest of Jesse Perez Torres, 35, in Long Beach on suspicion of the 2010 kidnap and murder of Lopez.

"We’re confident we have the suspect in custody," Anderson told reporters at a news conference at Moreno Valley City Hall. "He’s not on the streets. The community can breathe a sigh of relief."

Lopez’s father, Martin, and sister Elizabeth, 19, attended the news conference.

The family is happy and relieved over Torres’ arrest, said Elizabeth, who wore a T-shirt with Norma’s picture on it. She said police had warned them that an arrest could take years.

“I know who did it,” she said. “I just want to know why. Why did you have to kill my sister? Why her... she still had a long life ahead of her.”

She said that she did not want the suspect to face the death penalty. “That’s the easy way out for him,” she said. “I want to make sure he spends the rest of his life in jail.”

Lopez was reported missing on July 15, 2010, by her older sister, Sonja, after she failed to show up at a friend's home following her summer biology class. She was out of school by 10 a.m. and planned to meet her older sister and a friend.

Investigators said they found some of Norma's belongings, as well as signs of a struggle, in a vacant field along Cottonwood Avenue, a popular shortcut among students.

Lopez's body was found in a grassy field five days later by a resident doing yardwork in an isolated area just off the 60 Freeway that is surrounded by vast wheat fields.

Lopez's father said police came to the family's home Thursday night at 7 p.m. and told them the police had a suspect in custody. Torres was arrested in Long Beach on suspicion of murder and kidnapping and is being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, with bail set at $1 million.


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Photo: Martin Lopez gets a hug from family friend Maria Vasquez at the news conference Friday, where Moreno Valley Police Chief John Anderson announced the arrest of suspect Jesse Perez Torres in the kidnapping and death of Lopez's daughter Norma. Credit: Irfan Kahn / Los Angele Times