Jury hears why slain Moreno Valley teen was walking alone before she was murdered in 2010

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Jesse Torres did not want his face on camera during the second day of his murder trial in Riverside County courtroom.

Torres is accused of kidnapping and murdering 17-year-old Norma Lopez in 2010 as she walked to a friend's home. The teen usually walked with her boyfriend, but on that July day she was alone.

During Wednesday's hearing, the jury heard why.

Her former boyfriend Joshua Battest testified that he didn't meet up with Lopez that day because he was late checking out of a hotel his family was staying in during a home renovation.

Battest told the jury he had his sister drive him to his friend's home hoping to meet up with Lopez.

He also recalled finding Lopez's purse in a dirt field, but not making anything of it until Lopez's younger sister became frantic.

Battest was the one who spotted the broken earring and later pointed it out to detectives.

Torres' defense attorney focused on the earring, asking if Battest remembered how he found it and if he had touched or moved it.

The defense contends DNA evidence collected from the earring is tainted because it was mishandled prior to collection. Battest told the court he did not touch or move the earring.

A retired Riverside County sheriff's deputy who lived in the area at the time but was not part of the case followed Battest's testimony.

James Brown recalled seeing a vehicle driving out of the field the morning Lopez went missing. He described a dark green SUV driving erratically at a high rate of speed, causing a large dust cloud.

The defense pointed out that the defendant drove a light brown Nissan Xterra at the time. But Brown also testified he could not be 100 percent certain since he only caught a quick 10-second glimpse of the SUV as it drove by.

The prosecution rested the color discrepancy could be due to the amount of dust on the vehicle as it drove through the dirt field.

One of the last witnesses to take the stand was newly elected Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. He supervised the investigation during the search for Lopez. He recalled the overwhelming response and attention the case garnered. Resources were brought in with the hope of finding the teen alive.

Testimony will resume Thursday. The jury will likely begin hearing from dueling DNA experts.

The murder case is expected to last a month. If convicted, Torres faces the death penalty.
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