The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office dropped its bid Friday to seek the death penalty against a Torrance man charged with raping and murdering a teenage girl and a young woman who were found dead less than a year apart.
Geovanni Borjas, 36, is charged with murder and rape in the April 24, 2011, killing of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and the Dec. 26, 2011, slaying of 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman, along with a charge that he kidnapped Guzman to commit another crime.
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.
Prosecutors had announced in May 2018 that they would seek the death penalty for Borjas.
Shortly after being sworn into office last December, Los Angeles County 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, prosecutors have opted not to seek the death penalty in at least two other high-profile cases involving Kenneth Earl Gay, who is charged in the 1983 killing of a Los Angeles police officer in Lake View Terrace, and Michael Christopher Mejia, an admitted gang member accused of killing a family member in East Los Angeles and then opening fire on two Whittier police officers, killing one and wounding the other.
Borjas has remained jailed without bail since he was arrested in May 2017 by Los Angeles police.
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 onramp to the southbound Glendale (2) Freeway in the Silver Lake area. The body was apparently 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 only other case in which the LAPD used familial DNA was 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.
Source: NBC Los Angeles