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Father Fears Safety Of Missing Latina Teen Who Was Last Seen With Her Homicide Suspect Mother

A Latina teenager from Redondo Beach, Calif., a beach town edging Los Angeles, has gone missing, and authorities believe she could be with two homicide suspects, KTLA reports.

Alora Benitez, 15, was last seen on Wednesday morning in Torrance with her mother and a man, both suspects in the killing of Jeffrey Appel in Carson on Tuesday.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Appel, 32, was found dead in a car in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive. An autopsy report noted that the man, from Las Vegas, died from gunshot wounds to the neck and torso. His death has been ruled a homicide, with Benitez’s mom, Maricela Mercado, 40, and her ex-husband Roman Cerratos, 39, as the main suspects.

Local police issued an Amber Alert Wednesday when they learned the girl, who is 5 feet and 2 inches tall and about 100 pounds, was last seen with the suspects.

A BMW belonging to the suspects was found in the border town of San Ysidro, though the girl, her mother and the man were not found.

Julian Benitez Jr., the girl’s father, described his daughter as “my air and my life.”

“I just need her back,” Benitez, who hosted an Easter Sunday vigil in Windsor Hills, said. “I need her back in my arms.”

During the vigil, families and friends gathered to pray for the girl’s safe return. Her dad also sent the girl a direct message.

“Alora, if you’re listening, if you see any of this: Make a run for it. Call 911. Get to a phone. Ask for help. Go where there’s a lot of people,” the father said.

Authorities are urging anyone with any information on the child’s whereabouts to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. They can also send tips anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

While Alora’s case is horrifying, it’s unfortunately not unique.

In the US alone, an estimated 460,000 children go missing every year. A majority of these youth are of color. According to Robert Lowery, vice president for the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, about 35 percent of them are Black and another 20 percent are Latinx, CNN reports. Unfortunately, while these young people were abducted, ran away and/or forced into sex trafficking in our own backyards, news of their disappearances hardly make local news, let alone national or international headlines.

Below, we highlight a sample of the countless Latina girls who are missing, some who have disappeared as recently as this month and others whose cases have remained cold for decades.

Sofia Juarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Sofia Juarez went missing on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. Her disappearance, which remains unsolved, triggered Washington’s first-ever Amber alert. A 10-year-old relative reported seeing the young girl walking down the driveway with a man dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants and sneakers. Officers considered her grandmother’s boyfriend Jose Lopez Torres, a neighbor with a record of minor sex offenses Kevin Ireland and the girl’s father as possible suspects, but no arrests have been made. Sofia’s mother died in 2009, but her family vowed to continue their search for the girl.

Haley Romero-Menendez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Haley Romero-Menendez was last seen in her Northwest Washington, DC neighborhood on Tuesday, March 12. The Metropolitan Police Department is currently asking for the public’s help in finding the “critically missing” 16-year-old Latina. Standing at 5’5” and 130 pounds, she was last seen wearing a green hoodie and blue jeans.

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Reyna Alvarado-Carrera was last seen in her Norcross, Georgia home in 2005 at the age of 13. Few details are known, but authorities believe she was abducted by a non-relative male named Jose Carlos Gatica Luna who was 34 years old at the time of the disappearance. The girl, who went by Gaby, is now 27 years old.

Sulay Andino

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manhattan Latina Sulay Andino was last seen on March 20, 2018 at the age of 16. Standing at 5’5″ tall and 145 pounds, the girl, now 17, is believed to be in the Bronx, though there are few details around her disappearance, including what she was last wearing, who last saw her and what she was last seen doing.

Diana Alvarez

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Diana Belinda Alvarez has been missing since May 29, 2016. The girl, then 9 years old, was last seen in her Fort Myers, Fla. home wearing a short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts. Jorge Guerrero, who is currently incarcerated on possession of child pornography charges, is the prime suspect in the now-11-year-old girl’s disappearance. The girl’s mother, Rita, visited Guerrero in jail in July 2016, where the man told her that her daughter was alive but did not tell her where she was.

Henrietta Avila

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila went missing the summer of 1960, when she was 17 years old. She was last seen in Garden Grove, Calif., where she lived with her husband who she had dated for a month before they wed. News reports refer to the marriage as “no overwhelming success.” The summer of her disappearance, Henrietta’s parents contacted her husband, Merle, to ask where she was. He stated she had packed her bags and left him. A mysterious telegram signed “Henrietta” was sent to the family after the conversation and a collect call was made from someone claiming to be her, though they hung up as soon as her mother took the call. Henrietta’s parents hired a private investigator and offered a $1,000 reward for information on her remains, as they believed she was killed, but she, now 76, remains missing.

Alissa Albizu

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Alissa Albizu disappeared from her home in Philadelphia the night of October 16, 2015. Officials have classified her case as an “endangered runaway.” Last seen at age 13, when she was 5’2”, 112 pounds and wearing a red shirt and blue pants, Alissa, who has a tattoo on her right hand, is currently 16 years old.

Agueda Arias

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Agueda Arias disappeared from Longview, Washington at age three on November 16, 2001. The girl was last seen with her mom, Guadalupe Barajas Castro, shopping with an adult male friend. The vehicle the mother, who was pregnant at the time, was driving was found abandoned in California. Neither she nor her mother was seen again in a case authorities have said had “suspicious circumstances.” She would be 20 years old today.

Manuela Carina Caz Choc

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Manuela Carina Caz Choc, 16, was last seen June 10, 2018 in Culpeper, Virginia. The girl is believed to be with a man, named Oscar Quinich Tut, who was posing as her biological father. Manuela, now 17, was 5’0″ tall and 92 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She also had gold caps on three of her front teeth with a half moon shape in the middle and a skin condition causing discoloration on both her arms and back.

Aileen Rivera

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Aileen Rivera was last seen in Warminster, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2019. Reading police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the missing 15-year-old. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 120 pounds.

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Street Vendor By The Name Of Lorenzo Pérez Murdered Execution Style — “The person who killed my dad took away a part of me”

Things That Matter

Street Vendor By The Name Of Lorenzo Pérez Murdered Execution Style — “The person who killed my dad took away a part of me”

Like many street vendors, 45-year-old Lorenzo Pérez sold food to support his family.

Married and the father of four children ages 15, 13, 9, and 1, Perez is described by friends and family as being well known amongst neighborhood residents. He was often seen working alongside his daughter who helped him on occasion. Now, the community and family who knew Perez well are in mourning, after he was shot in broad daylight while doing his job.

Perez died after he being shot in the head in southeast Fresno on Sunday afternoon.

Fresno Police were called to the scene of a possible robbery at Alta and Pierce Avenues, near Kings Canyon and Willow around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. On the way to the scene, the police officers learned that a street vendor had been shot once in the head.

According to reports, Perez was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center where he ultimately died.

Witnesses of the murder told officers that a man had beckoned Perez to come over to him in a way that suggested he was going to purchase something from him.

According to police reports, when Perez walked up to the suspect, the man pulled out a gun and shot the vendor. He then stole a few items, which have not been identified, and flew the scene. Witnesses told police officers that they’d seen the man loitering around the area before the shooting.

A local news station reported that “Officers are now looking into surveillance footage from the area to try and identify the shooter… Through a statement, Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez announced that he will be offering a $5000 reward for information leading to the shooter’s arrest.”

“The coward that murdered our food vendor, turn yourself in and face the consequences. You’ve brought tremendous pain to a family and our city,” Chavez exclaimed in the statement.

To help the Perez family, Councilmember Esmeralda Soria set up a GoFundMe account which has already raised $141,780 out of its $125,000 goal.

Perez’s son, Isai, described his father in a recent interview as a “great man.”

“My father was a great man. He was a great father, a great husband, a great friend,” he said in an interview. “He spread love and kindness. He was about fairness, he wanted to share his happiness. He meant no harm. He didn’t deserve to go like this. The person who killed my dad took away a part of me. My dad went through everything for us. He took away my father. He took away the opportunity of me being with him in his last moments and it’s heartbreaking. I hope they find the murderer soon.”

If you have any information on the shooting please call Valley Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-STOP.

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

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Turns Out The First Owner Of Beverly Hills Was An Impressive Afro-Mexican Woman

Beverly Hills, one of the most well-known destinations in the country and world has long been a thriving and prime area for real-estate. Long before it was colonized by the Spanish, and was largely populated by rich white elites, the Indigenous people of California known as the Tongva, thrived there.

Hundreds of years later, in the 1830s, when the area was colonized, Maria Rita Valdez Villa, the granddaughter of Spanish colonists Luis and Maria Quintero and the great-granddaughter of an African slave was granted the original 4,500-acre of Beverly Hills, then known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas.

Yes, as it turns out the foremother of Beverly Hills was a Black Latina!

During her ownership, Maria Rita oversaw cattle ranching and farming.

According to LA Magazine, Rita “was well known for holding a yearly celebratory rodeo under a famous eucalyptus tree at what is now Pico and Robertson boulevards.”

Sadly, after working the land for so much time, three Indigenous Californian outlaws attacked the ranch in 1852. The attack led to a shootout amongst “a grove of walnut trees at what is now Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase drives” and eventually in 1854 Maria Rita decided to sell the area to investors Henry Hancock and Benjamin D. Wilson for $4,000.

Perhaps there’s a chance for justice for Maria Rita in the end.

Recently, Los Angeles County officials revealed that they were contemplating returning a beachfront property that was seized from a Black family nearly a century ago.

According to the Guardian, Manhattan Beach used “eminent domain” in 1924 to force Willa and Charles Bruce, the city’s first Black landowners, of the land where they lived. “The Bruces also ran a resort for Black families during a time when beaches in the strand were segregated,” explained the Guardian in a recent report. “Part of the land was developed into a city park. It is now owned by Los Angeles county and houses lifeguard headquarters and a training center.”

Manhattan Beach county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced that she was looking into ways to restore justice for Bruce family. Options include delivering the land back to the family, paying for losses, or potentially leasing the property from them

“I wanted the county of Los Angeles to be a part of righting this terrible wrong,” Hahn explained in a recent interview with KABC-TV.

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