A now-retired Orange County forensic scientist testified Tuesday that a 20-year-old Cal State Fullerton student killed 21 years ago was still alive when she was forced into the trunk of her car, where her body was found a week later in Placentia.
Tanya Beede took the witness stand in the trial of Samuel Agustin Lopez, 43, who is charged — along with a cousin — with killing his on-again, off- again girlfriend on Feb. 12, 1994, after she rejected his proposal to elope.
Beede, who was at the crime scene on Feb. 19, 1994, when the body of Cathy Torrez was found in a hospital parking lot, also testified that the victim’s shoes appeared to be “very clean,” implying whoever killed her tried to erase evidence.
“I found no traces of any blood on the shoes,” Beede testified. “There was a lot of blood on the (victim’s) sweatshirt.”
Pointing to the blood patterns and other evidence collected in the car’s trunk, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy asked Beede, “That’s consistent with movement in the trunk?”
“Yes,” Beede replied.
Beede also testified about evidence of “arterial spurting,” meaning the victim’s heart must have been beating when she was in the trunk of her car.
Investigators found blood on the car’s steering wheel, rocker panel, trunk-release latch, front console above the glove box and on the front passenger seat and an arm rest on the driver’s side door, as well as on a set of keys in the vehicle and several places on the car’s exterior, Beede testified.
Torrez was repeatedly stabbed by her killer, Beede said. The victim had wounds to her neck, upper chest, head and chin”deep gashes” to her forearm, cuts on her hands and wounds on her back and right thigh, the witness testified.
In the car, a gear box and cup holder were broken, indicating signs of a struggle, Beede said.
Three years after Torrez’s murder, investigators checked Lopez’s pickup truck and found no traces of blood in the vehicle, Beede testified.
Lopez’s girlfriend at the time — Perla Diaz — and her brother are expected to testify later this week about the defendant’s movements on Feb. 12, 1994, the night investigators believe the victim was killed.
Lopez has said he left his girlfriend’s family’s store at 8 that night, but investigators believe it was earlier.
Last week, the victim’s brother and sister testified about the defendant’s apparent indifference to the disappearance of Torrez.
On the night Torrez went missing after leaving work for a date with Lopez, the defendant’s sisters repeatedly tried to page him on his beeper but he did not respond, the victim’s sister, Tina Mora, testified.
Mora was married at the time to Lopez’s older brother, Armando, and living with the Lopez family across the street from the Torrez residence.
Mora has since divorced Aramando Lopez, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Murphy said in his opening statement that Samuel Lopez’s movements the night of the killing show he had the opportunity to commit the crime while with his cousin, Xavier “Javier” Lopez, who is awaiting trial on a murder charge.
Samuel Lopez’s attorney alleged in his opening statement that the evidence will show Javier Lopez killed the victim and acted alone to rob her for money for cocaine.
—City News Service
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