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20-Mar-2019

Cybergenetics DNA evidence helps convict California killer of teenager Norma Lopez


Riverside, CA

On July 15, 2010, seventeen year-old Norma Lopez disappeared after leaving her Valley View High School summer class. She never made it home. Her partially clad body was found five days later.

"This was really everyone’s worst nightmare," said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. "She could have been anyone’s daughter. It could have been your daughter."

There were no eyewitnesses. But her earrings were found where she was kidnapped. And the ankles of her jeans were examined. These items had the DNA of Lopez – and someone else.

In October 2011, a national DNA database search connected Lopez’ earrings to Jesse Torres (42), who lived near the high school. But limited DNA mixture interpretation methods could not produce an informative match statistic to Torres.

The Riverside crime laboratory found Lopez' DNA on her own earrings. And while Torres might have left his DNA, by the lab's mixture analysis, so too could've half the Hispanic population.

The crime lab found Lopez' DNA on her jeans. But there was too little mixed DNA on the jeans for them to say who else was there.

The forensic science lab needed to get more information out of their DNA mixture data. So they reached out to Cybergenetics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for help.

The company’s TrueAllele® technology examined the crime lab’s DNA mixture data. Cybergenetics’ computers found that a match between Norma Lopez’ earrings and Jesse Torres’ DNA was eighteen thousand times more probable than coincidence. And that Torres’ DNA was associated with the jeans.

On February 14, 2019, Cybergenetics chief scientist Dr. Mark Perlin testified about the TrueAllele results. Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Kersse asked him about the DNA evidence. Dr. Perlin described TrueAllele to the jurors, and explained the computer’s match results.

"The DNA is the most important evidence in this case," said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham. "It is the most damning evidence we have ... [Torres] left his DNA all over her ... pants, purse, earring. It all points to the same person. It’s too coincidental to be a coincidence."

On March 13, the Riverside jury convicted Jesse Torres of first-degree murder, and a special circumstance of murder during kidnapping. On March 20, after deliberating for an hour, the jury recommended that Torres be sentenced to death. Judge Bernard Schwartz will impose a sentence at a later hearing.


Links

DNA evidence

  • Prosecutor says DNA proves man abducted, murdered 17-year-old Moreno Valley girl - NBC 4 Los Angeles
  • Trial in Moreno Valley teen’s slaying could come down to dueling DNA experts - The Press-Enterprise

Torres found guilty

  • Man found guilty of Moreno Valley teen's murder - KESQ News Channel 3
  • Calif. teen was abducted, killed by ‘predator’ on way to friend's house - People

Jury recommends death penalty

  • Jury recommends death for Long Beach man in murder of Norma Lopez, 17 - Desert Sun
  • Norma Lopez murder trial: Jury recommends death penalty in Moreno Valley case - ABC 7 News
  • Jury recommends death for man convicted in slaying of 17-year-old Norma Lopez - NBC 4 Los Angeles

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