LOS ANGELES – A Lancaster woman has been charged for her alleged role in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old girl, who was abducted on her way to school and found dead a day later.
Rosemary Chavira, 27, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder in connection with Brenda Sierra’s killing, which detectives have linked to an East Los Angeles gang.
The 15-year-old disappeared on Oct. 18, 2002, while walking from her home to a friend’s home in the East Los Angeles area to catch a ride with a friend to Schurr High School in Montebello.
The high school sophomore’s body was discovered the next day in the San Bernardino Mountains. Sierra had died of blunt-force trauma to the head, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
On Friday, Feb. 27, Chavira was arrested near her home in Lancaster for her role in Sierra’s kidnapping and murder, sheriff’s officials said.
“Investigators have determined that Rosemary Chavira lived in the 500 block of South La Verne Avenue, East Los Angeles, at the time of Brenda’s kidnap and murder,” sheriff’s officials said in a press release.
The murder charge against Chavira includes the special circumstance allegations that Sierra was murdered during the commission of a kidnapping and a rape, along with an allegation that the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Chavira cannot face the death penalty because she was 15 when Sierra was kidnapped and killed, according to the District Attorney’s Office. She could face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Chavira has remained in jail without bail since her Feb. 27 arrest. She is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom April 1, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require her to stand trial.
“We firmly believe a street gang in East Los Angeles is responsible for her kidnapping and murder,” Detective Larry Brandenburg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said in June 2009 when sheriff’s detectives sought the public’s help in finding clues to the teen’s killing.
He noted that “in no way was she affiliated with any gang.”
In November 2009, CNN reported that sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Harris said, “We believe that Brenda was killed as retaliation by gang members in the neighborhood responsible for a shooting that Brenda’s brother and mother witnessed a few weeks earlier.”
Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday they anticipate charges will be filed against at least three other suspects in connection with the killing over the next month.