Loved ones of a missing 15-year-old Redondo Beach girl who was last seen Wednesday with two homicide suspects held a vigil on Easter Sunday in Windsor Hills to pray for her safe return.
Alora Benitez was last spotted Wednesday morning in Torrance, in the company of her mother and a man who are suspected in the killing of a man in a Carson parking lot on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Appel, 32, of Las Vegas, was found dead in a car in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and coroner’s officials.
Sheriff’s officials initially described the death as a stabbing, but later said the cause of death was unclear and would be determined by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner
An autopsy has since determined Appel died from gunshot wounds to the neck and torso, coroner’s records show. The death was ruled a homicide.
Benitez is believed to be with her mother, Maricela Mercado, 40, and her ex-husband Roman Cerratos, 39, who have been identified by homicide detectives as suspects in Appel’s killing, sheriff’s officials said.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert Wednesday evening after realizing the girl was last seen with the suspects.
The suspects’ BMW was found in the border town of San Ysidro, investigators announced Friday. But the suspects and Benitez were nowhere to be found.
The missing girl’s father, Julian Benitez Jr., described her as, “my air and my life.”
“I just need her back,” he said. “I need her back in my arms.”
“Alora, if you’re listening, if you see any of this: Make a run for it. Call 911. Get to a phone. Ask for help. Go where there’s a lot of people,” the father said.
Benitez was described as Latina, about 5 feet, 2 inches tall and about 100 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Cerratos was described as a Latino man standing around 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighing about 210 pounds, with a bald head and brown eyes. Mercado is a Latina woman, roughly 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing around 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, officials said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.