Family members of a teenage girl and a young woman made emotional pleas Friday to a judge to speed up an as-yet unscheduled trial for the Torrance man charged with murdering the two in separate attacks about eight months apart in 2011.
Bree’Anna Guzman’s mother, Darlene Duran, told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler, “For all the reasons that this case continues to be prolonged are yet reasons why I continue to feel the hurt, deep pain and anger that I feel for my loss of my daughter Bree’Anna. I continue to live my days to the best of my ability, waiting for this chapter to close.”
The woman called a recent decision by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to drop its bid to seek the death penalty for Geovanni Borjas “a slap in the face to us.”
Shortly after being sworn into office last December, District Attorney George Gascón issued a series of directives, including one that “a sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case.” Since then, the death penalty has been pulled as a potential punishment in a number of high-profile cases, including that of a gang member convicted Sept. 1 of murdering a Whittier police officer and a man in East Los Angeles in 2017.
Borjas, now 37, was charged in May 2017 with the Dec. 26, 2011, slaying of Guzman, 22, and the April 24, 2011, killing of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano.
The murder charges include the special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the commission of a rape involving both victims and murder during the commission of a kidnapping involving Guzman. He is also charged with kidnapping Guzman to commit another crime.
He was subsequently indicted in February 2018 on the same charges.
Lozano’s brother, Marco Flores, implored the judge to move the case “forward to trial.”
“It has been 10 years and justice has not been served for my sister. It is not right or fair for our family and the family of the other (victim) to continue coming to every hearing just to receive the same result,” he said. “Every time we come back here, it reopens wounds and makes us feel like this just happened yesterday. It is completely heartbreaking and tough to leave here to know nothing has been done,” he said.
The judge told the victims’ families that they need to understand that “the system constrains what I’m allowed to do.”
“I do feel your pain, I know you’re hurting,” the judge said. “My duty is to protect the defendant’s rights, as well as your rights.”
The judge noted that the case initially began as a death penalty case, which immediately slowed the process down, and that he doesn’t have any say in the subsequent decision by the District Attorney’s Office to pull the death penalty as potential punishment for the defendant. He indicated that he is hopeful that they will start to see the case move forward.
Borjas has remained jailed without bail since he was arrested by Los Angeles police in May 2017, and is due back in court Oct. 29 for another pretrial hearing.
Then-Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said both victims were sexually assaulted.
Lozano’s body was found about 11:40 p.m. on April 25, 2011, alongside the Golden State (5) Freeway near State Street in Boyle Heights. Police said the body had been wrapped in plastic bags, put in a plastic container and dumped over a masonry barrier along the freeway, and that the container broke open when it hit the ground.
Guzman’s partially clothed body was discovered on Jan. 26, 2012, near the Riverside Drive on-ramp to the southbound Glendale (2) Freeway in the Silver Lake area. The body was apparently was dumped at the location, police said.
Guzman had been reported missing a month earlier. She left her home in Lincoln Heights the day after Christmas to go to a store but never returned.
Police initially did not believe the two killings were related. But Beck said detectives were eventually able to connect the crimes and requested permission from the state Attorney General’s Office to perform a familial DNA search.
“After the familial search, a person was identified as a contributory match to the suspect,” Beck said shortly after Borjas’ arrest. “That individual was (the) suspect’s father, who was arrested on a non-sexual-assault-type crime earlier in his life.”
After conducting further information into the father’s background, detectives “identified a family member who they thought possibly could be the suspect involved in these (crimes) and they collected a surreptitious DNA sample,” Beck said. “They did this by following that individual. During that following, he spit on the sidewalk. Detectives collected that and the DNA was a match. It was a match to both of these murders.”
According to Beck, the case marked the second time Los Angeles police had relied on a familial DNA search, which can narrow the search for a suspect to a particular family and point detectives to suspects whose DNA is not yet in a database. Beck noted that Borjas’ DNA was not in any existing database prior to his arrest.
The LAPD also used familial DNA in the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer case, in which detectives used a discarded pizza crust to collect DNA linking the killings to Lonnie David Franklin Jr., who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2016. He died while on death row in March 2020.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: