Twelve years after the body of 15-year-old Brenda Sierra was found in the San Bernardino Mountains, a woman who was her teenage friend has been arrested on suspicion of murder in the cold-case killing.
Sierra disappeared in October 2002, when she was walking to a friend’s house on the way to school in East Los Angeles.
She was taken to a home several blocks away, where she was sexually assaulted, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She was then bludgeoned to death at another home several miles away.
The day after she was kidnapped, her body was found in the “Valley of Enchantment” area of Crestline. The case was transferred from San Bernardino to L.A. County investigators in 2008.
Rosemary Chavira, who was also 15 at the time of Sierra’s death, was expected to be arraigned in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday on a murder charge.
Now 27 and a Lancaster resident, Chavira was arrested Friday. She was being held without bail.
“She actually was a friend of Brenda at the time, and coordinated the kidnap itself,” sheriff’s Lt. Dave Coleman said. “Evidence indicates to us she was present during the rapes and during the murder.”
She was charged with felony murder during the commission of a kidnapping, with rape and gang allegations, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Three other suspects were expected to face similar charges within the next 30 days, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Two of the suspects were in custody Tuesday, but their names were not released.
In 2012, investigators released two sketches and a photo of three young men who were wanted in connection with Sierra’s killing. Two were known gang members, and a third was a “person of interest” identified as George Barraza.
Barraza was still believed to be in Mexico, Coleman said Tuesday.
In 2012, detectives said they believed that one or two females might have made contact with Brenda on the street and facilitated her abduction.
Sierra had no gang affiliations, according to investigators. She attended Schurr High School in Montebello, as did Chavira.
Her rape and killing were gang retaliation, Coleman said. Sierra’s brother had testified in a gang-related drive-by shooting case about 10 days before she was abducted, the lieutenant said.
The lengthy investigation used DNA evidence, surveillance video, and witness statements, authorities said. Investigators were still looking for more information from the public on the case.
The cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the head, according to the DA’s office.