Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Prompted by a case involving the death of a 27-year- old Laguna Hills woman last year, an Orange County state senator said Wednesday she has introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties for dumping of a body.

Erica Alonso, who went missing in February of last year, was found dead April 27 in the Cleveland National Forest, about a mile east of the San Juan Capistrano Fire-Ranger station on Ortega Highway, near Hot Springs Road.

Orange County sheriff’s investigators concluded it was not a homicide. Alonso had a lethal dose of alcohol and the drug GHB in her system, according to an autopsy that showed her blood-alcohol level was .22, nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, said it was “evident” that Alonso’s body was moved from the scene of her death to conceal her demise.

“The disappearance and death of Erica Alonso was unsettling to residents throughout Orange County and was especially heartbreaking to Ms. Alonso’s parents, who endured prolonged suffering due to the delayed investigation caused by the removal of her body,” Nguyen said.

“While Ms. Alonso’s death may not have been a homicide, the individuals who moved her body chose to interfere rather than cooperate with authorities,” she said. “The ramifications of these careless actions are immeasurable, and I believe a judge deserves discretion in cases like this to administer a higher penalty.”

The bill would increase the punishment for concealing an accidental death from a misdemeanor to a “wobbler,” meaning a judge could impose a tougher penalty depending on the circumstances of the victim’s demise, Nguyen said.

“As an advocate for public safety and as a mother, it is disturbing that this form of a crime is still penalized in the same category as petty theft in the state of California,” Nguyen said. “This legislation seeks to change that.”

Alonso was last seen leaving her boyfriend’s home in Irvine about 3:45 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2015. Authorities located her 2014 Honda Civic EX near Cedarbrook and Redwood in the Glenwood Park neighborhood of Aliso Viejo on March 25.

Alonso’s father, Isaac Alonso Sr., said last year that he would lobby state lawmakers to reform the laws regarding the dumping of a body.

–City News Service

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