The car that a 15-year-old girl who is the subject of an Amber Alert was last seen traveling in with her mother and the mom’s ex-husband, who are wanted in connection with a killing in Carson, was found unoccupied in the border town of San Ysidro, officials said Friday.
Authorities have been searching for the three since Wednesday, when the teen, Alora Benitez, was seen leaving Torrance with the homicide suspects in a white BMW sedan around 9 a.m.
An Amber Alert for Benitez was announced by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials Wednesday evening — then sent to cellphones about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Maricela Mercado, 40, and Roman Cerratos, 39, were identified Thursday as suspects in the killing of 32-year-old Las Vegas man Jeffery Appel, who was found dead early Tuesday morning in the front seat of a car in the parking lot of a business park on the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive.
Investigators still have not said how Appel was killed. What appeared to be blood was visible on the exterior of the car he was in, and what looked like a trail of blood extended across the parking lot and into the street.
A woman who works nearby told KTLA employees of ASAP Drug Solutions — a firm that administers anti-drug and alcohol programs — recognized Appel as one of their clients.
Authorities did not provide further details on where the suspects’ car was found in San Ysidro. L.A. County sheriff’s officials only said that it was discovered by San Diego police.
From L.A., San Ysidro is the closest place to cross the border into Mexico. Investigators have not said whether they suspect Mercado and Cerratos fled the country.
The BMW, a 2013 model with four doors, had a Nevada license plate that reads “MARIMAR.”
Officials said Mercado has family who lives in Nevada, but it’s still unclear whether she or Cerratos has any relationship to Appel.
Investigators have said they’re working around-the-clock to locate Benitez.
Authorities describe the teen as 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing about 100 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Cerratos is described as a Latino man measuring around 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing about 210 pounds with a bald head and brown eyes. Mercado is a Latina woman who is roughly 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs around 130 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes, officials said.
It is unclear whether the teenager voluntarily left with the suspects.
Anyone with information was urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. To provide information anonymously, you can call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.