The son of a Los Angeles County fire captain has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering a California woman who was shot and abducted from a park.
Gabriel Sean Esparza, 20, has been charged with multiple felonies including murder, kidnapping and attempted rape of 19-year-old Andrea Vazquez.
Mr Esparza entered a not-guilty plea when he made his first court appearance for the brutal slaying on Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors have formally filed seven charges against the suspect, according to a criminal complaint submitted in Los Angeles Superior Court.
These also include attempted murder, kidnapping to commit another crime, assault with intent to commit a felony, and two counts of attempted forcible rape.
Police say that Vazquez was kidnapped from Penn Park in Whittier, outside Los Angeles, as she was sitting in a parked car with her boyfriend.
“An armed suspect approached their vehicle and fired a weapon in their direction,” stated the Whittier Police Department.
Investigators say the boyfriend fled the gunfire and when he returned to the vehicle he “discovered blood” near it and Ms Vasquez had gone.
The family says that Vazquez’s phone last pinged in the Moreno Valley area, around 50 miles east of Whittier. Her body was later discovered in an open field not far from where her phone last pinged and they found traces of blood.
Police said Mr Esparza, a Whittier resident, was arrested at his job Monday in the city of Lakewood. He has since been booked into the Whittier Police Department and is being held without bail.
Officials have called this a random killing.
“Today is the worst day of my life. We received the news that my daughter died,” Andrea’s mother, Anna Vazquez, said at a news conference. “We had a lot of hope that she was alive.”
Investigators say they recovered the weapon believed to have been used in the slaying, as well as the suspect’s vehicle, a 2013 White Toyota Tacoma truck, was also recovered.
Vazquez was a fashion design student at Fullerton College and also worked at a mall in Cerritos.