A 19-year-old woman who was believed to have been abducted after a shooting in Whittier has been found dead, and a man has been arrested in connection with the killing.
Andrea Vazquez’s body was discovered in an open field in Moreno Valley Monday night, Whittier police said.
Police responded to the parking stalls of Penn Park shortly after midnight on Sunday after a man reported that an armed suspect approached his vehicle — occupied by him and a female passenger — and fired gunshots in their direction, Whittier police said.
Family members said that Vazquez was with her boyfriend in a parked car at the curb when another vehicle pulled up and fired a shot, striking Andrea. They believe that the boyfriend then ran to another couple in the park for help.
When he returned, he saw that Vazquez was missing and there was blood on the floor, police said.
Investigators believe the shooting was random.
Vazquez’s sister said that she traced her phone early Sunday to a field in Moreno Valley. At the location, she said she found more blood, but no phone and no further trace of the victim.
Around 11:50 p.m. Monday, investigators found Vazquez’s body in a vegetation field off Alessandro Boulevard and Merwin Street in Moreno Valley.
It is unclear, however, where and how exactly she died.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Anna Vasquez, Andrea’s mother. Anna said she knew the worst had happened when police showed up at her door.
“I hoped that I was wrong,” she recalled. “That she was still alive.”
Gabriel Sean Esparza, 20, of Whittier, was arrested at his Lakewood job in connection with the death, police said.
He was booked on suspicion of murder and kidnapping, and is being held without bail.
A weapon believed to have been used in the crime was recovered.
Authorities later said Esparza allegedly confessed to killing Vazquez.
A vigil was held Tuesday night by loved ones to remember Andrea.
“I feel the love they all have for her,” Anna said of those who attended her daughter’s vigil. “Sometimes you never knew you had that power. She was special.”
The case will be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for charges, police said.
Veronica Becerra, Vazquez’s aunt, said Tuesday that the family was devastated by the news of her death.
“She was an angel. I am left only with her smile and her face,” she said.