Santa Ana police detectives said they would like to speak with 24-year-old Luis Antonio Garcia Morales, who had a past relationship with the victim, 21-year-old Maria Isabel Cerrillo of Santa Ana.
Investigators said Cerrillo's body was discovered around 7:40 p.m. Tuesday in an alley in the 200 block of N. Laurel Street, about three and half miles from her home.
Cerrillo was stabbed multiple times in the upper torso, which is presumably how she died. An autopsy will be performed to confirm her cause of death.
Detectives said they believe Garcia Morales lured Cerrillo to the location where she was found. Detectives searched the apartment where Garcia Morales lives, which is down the alley where Cerrillo was killed.
It is believed that Garcia Morales made statements to family and coworkers that he is en route to Mexico due to family issues.
Garcia Morales was described as a Hispanic man standing 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Jocelyn Rodriguez said she heard Cerrillo crying for help.
"I remember she was saying, 'Oh my God,' like someone to help her," Rodriguez said. "Then her yell was just going lower and lower, and then it just completely stopped."
Rodriguez said she called 911, then tried to help Cerrillo, who still had her car keys in her hand and was bleeding heavily from her abdominal area.
"She was just turning her head side to side," Rodriguez said. "I tried talking to her but she didn't respond."
Rodriguez said she heard someone running away, but it was too dark to see who it was.
Police said Cerrillo's car was parked near the scene. They said they don't believe it was a robbery or gang-related, even though the area is known for gang activity.
Cerillo's father said she was an only child who loved to sing and wanted to be a model. The father said she was concerned about an unnamed man who wanted to be romantically involved with her, but she wasn't interested because she already had a boyfriend in the Bay Area. Investigators said Cerrillo's boyfriend was not a suspect.
Erika Calvo, a friend of the victim, said Cerrillo was a cheerful woman who had a "young-hearted spirit" and a bright future a head of her. Friends and neighbors gathered at the family's house Wednesday to help console Cerrillo's parents.
"They're devastated beyond words can explain what's going on in the house," said Calvo. "The mom is terrified, the father is distraught. It's horrible, it's a nightmare."
Anyone with information was asked to call detectives at (714) 245-8665.