RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) —
Opening statements began in the murder trial of Jesse Perez Torres, who is accused in the 2010 kidnapping and murder of 17-year-old Norma Lopez in Moreno Valley.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Kersse laid out his case for jurors. Kersse played a video showing Lopez’s daily walk from Valley View High School to a friend’s home. The teen disappeared July 15, 2010 while walking home after attending a summer school class.
Kersse also played a 911 call placed by a neighbor after Lopez’s 16-year-old sister in a panic ran from the field where she found her sister’s abandoned purse.
Jurors heard from Karen Gudo as she recalled making the phone call after arriving home. She said it was hard to understand but she was able to tell dispatchers the teen was screaming her sister had been kidnapped.
Jurors were told about the search for Lopez with help from media outlets, search teams, the FBI and other resources used. Five days later, Lopez’s partially nude body was found lying face down under an olive tree.
An earring Lopez was wearing that was found broken in the dirt field along with her purse, jeans and underwear were sent for DNA analysis. A profile and match were found.
But Torres’ defense attorney John Dorr countered the prosecution’s evidence, telling jurors during his opening argument the earring had been mishandled and moved twice before it was collected for DNA analysis.
Dorr also pointed out that a partial DNA match was found and that another lab had to piece together the rest.
In the process, 24 matches came back. The defense says once investigators discovered Torres lived in the neighborhood they zeroed in on him and failed to follow up on the 23 other matches.
The defense also told jurors about witnesses that would testify seeing a dark green GMC leaving the dirt field at a rapid rate of speed at the time Norma would have been walking in the field. They pointed out Torres drove a light brown Nissan XTerra.
Both Lopez’s sisters, Elizabeth and Sonia, took the stand to testify about the last day they saw their sister. Elizabeth identified a black and white shirt she was wearing. Sonia recalled finding the purse and other items scattered on the dirt path they walked together.
The murder trial is expected to last a month.
If Torres is convicted the trial will move to a penalty phase. Torres is facing the possibility of death.
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