The FBI has joined the search for the missing 15-year-old Redondo Beach girl believed to be with her mother and her mother’s ex-husband, both of whom are homicide suspects and are considered armed and dangerous, the bureau said Wednesday, almost a month after an Amber Alert was issued for the girl.
The teenager, Alora Benitez, was last seen getting into a white BMW in Torrance on April 17 with Maricela Mercado, 40, and Roman Cerratos, 39.
The two were identified as suspects in the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Jeffrey Appel in Carson, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
San Diego Police later found the BMW unoccupied in the border town of San Ysidro about a week later, authorities said.
Appel was found dead with gunshot wounds to his neck and torso inside a car parked on the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive on April 16, LASD said.
A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the suspects’ arrests.
Family held a vigil for the teenager a few weeks after her disappearance and pleaded for her return.
“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,” her father Julian Benitez Jr. said at the vigil.
Benitez was described as Latina, about 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing about 100 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Cerratos was described as a Latino man standing at 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 was asked to call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at 310-477-6565 or the LASD Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. To provide information anonymously, call L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or visit the website.
.@FBILosAngeles is assisting @LASDHQ with their search for Alora Benitez, who may be in the company of her biological mother, Marisela Mercado, and her mother's boyfriend, Roman Cerratos. Mercado and Cerratos are wanted for murder in an unrelated case: https://t.co/KexcI9YEHM pic.twitter.com/thvVjhJvWQ
— FBI Most Wanted (@FBIMostWanted) May 15, 2019