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Arrest made in '94 Redlands cold-case murder

December 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There's a major break in a cold case involving a teenage mother who disappeared 15 years ago. Her remains were found near San Diego and were only recently identified. Now there has been an arrest in Redlands, where she used to live.On October 4, 1994, Sara Reyes was last seen leaving home to go to the store to buy some formula for her baby. That was the last time her 11-month-old child would see her, because Reyes never returned.

Not having any idea what might have happened, family members filed a missing persons report.

"We immediately started working the case, pursued a number of leads, but eventually all of those leads were exhausted, and we were unable to locate her or any sign of what happened to her," said Redlands Police Spokesman Carl Baker.

Baker says that's when the case went cold.

It wasn't until three years ago that skeletal remains found near Valley Center in San Diego County were identified as those of Reyes.

The case heated back up, culminating in the arrest of 52-year-old Seferina Ponce. The connection? Ponce was Reyes's landlady at the time.

"It's a wonderful feeling," said Redlands Police Commander Tom Fitzmaurice. "There are many officers who have worked this case over the years. Officers will rotate through the detective bureau and almost every generation of investigator has worked this."

Fitzmaurice says the current police chief was the captain of operations at the time Reyes went missing, and took a special interest in the case.

"We're all sorry, and hoped that Sara would be found alive, but now that we know that we know she was murdered, we feel very good about the ultimate disposition here, bringing somebody to justice," said Fitzmaurice.

Police have not said anything about a motive for the murder, other than saying there was some kind of dispute between Ponce and Reyes.

Ponce is in jail, held on $11 million bail. She is expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon.


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