Kidnapped 19-year-old California woman found dead; suspect arrested

Kidnapped 19-year-old California woman found dead; suspect arrested

Detectives have found the body of a 19-year-old Downey woman in Moreno Valley and arrested a suspect in her slaying.

Andrea Vazquez, a student at Fullerton College, was abducted in Whittier early Sunday morning, officials said.

Gabriel Esparza, 20, of Whittier, was taken into custody around 3 p.m. on Monday at his job in Lakewood, according to a police statement. He was booked on suspicion of murder and kidnapping. Police also seized a firearm they believe was used in the early Sunday morning crime, as well as Ezparza’s 2013 white Toyota Tacoma truck.

Police didn’t say how they identified Esparza as the suspect or why the two-day search for Andrea Vazquez happened “in large open land areas of Moreno Valley.” However, Vazquez’s sister, Edlyn, told KTLA that she traced her sibling’s phone to a field in Moreno Valley. She found blood there but not the phone or her sister.

Investigators said they found Vazquez’ body in a field off Alessandro Boulevard and Merwin Street in Moreno Valley Monday at 11:50 p.m.

Gabriel Esparza, 20, of Whittier (Courtesy of Whittier Police Department) 

Vazquez and a male companion were not targeted for a particular reason, with police calling the crime “a random act of violence by Esparza, who just happened to come upon them at Penn Park,” according to Officer Thomas Mattsson, spokesman for the Whittier Police Department.

There is no evidence of a robbery, he added. Investigators are not looking for other suspects, Mattsson said.

Vazquez’s family couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

Henry Hua, interim vice president of administrative services at Fullerton College, confirmed Vazquez is a student and was enrolled this fall.

“Fullerton College is devastated to learn of the news about Andrea Vazquez. We extend our condolences to her parents, family and friends,” Cynthia Olivo, Fullerton College president, said in a statement.

“We have enlisted the support of our campus psychologists to provide assistance to our campus community who may have known her and are also grieving her tragic passing.”

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The shooting and kidnapping happened in a parking stall at Penn Park, 13950 Penn St. early Sunday, just after midnight. Vazquez and a 19-year-old man were sitting in a vehicle when an armed suspect approached their car and shot in their direction.

Vazquez’s companion ran. When the man returned, he discovered blood near the vehicle and Vazquez was missing.

Mattsson said the man was dating Vazquez. Her relatives told KTLA the man with her on Sunday was her boyfriend.

Police plan to present a case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.

Esparza was being held Tuesday without bail at the Whittier Police jail.