California murder probe prompts Amber Alert for 15-year-old girl

April 18, 2019 - 9:11 am
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(LOS ANGELES) -- An Amber Alert was issued Thursday for a California teenager after investigators learned she was last seen with her mother and a man who are suspects in a murder and considered "armed and dangerous."

Alora Benitez, 15, was last seen around 9 a.m. on Wednesday in Torrance, California, accompanied by her mother, Maricela Mercado, and Roman Cerratos, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Mercado, 40, and Cerratos, 39, are suspects in a homicide that occurred on Tuesday in Carson, California, according to the sheriff's department. The victim, whose name was not released, was found dead in the front seat of a white Audi near a business district in the Southern California town.

"They are considered armed and dangerous," sheriff's officials said of Mercado and Ceratos in a statement.

Alora was last seen leaving Torrance with her mother and Cerratos in a white 2013 BMW, four-door sedan with the Nevada license plate MARIMAR.

"Los Angeles County Homicide Bureau is requesting the public’s assistance in locating Alora and safely returning her to her family," the sheriff's department statement reads. "Please do not take independent action, call 9-1-1 and alert local police or sheriff’s officials."

Homicide detectives learned that Alora was last seen with her mother and Cerratos while investigating the homicide Tuesday morning in Carson.

The murder victim, whose name was not released, was found bleeding about 3:30 a.m. inside a car parked in a business district, according to the sheriff's department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff's officials initially said the victim had been stabbed to death but later told reporters that the cause of death was pending an autopsy.

Anyone with information on the missing girl can contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.

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