Arrest made in 2011 murders of 2 women found on LA freeways

Amy Powell Image
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Arrest made in 2011 murders of 2 women found on LA freeways
Bree'anna Guzman (left) and Michelle Lozano (right) are seen in this undated split image.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An arrest was made in the 2011 murders of two young women whose bodies were discovered along Los Angeles freeways.

LAPD says Geovanni Borjas, 32, was arrested last week in connection with the murders of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree'anna Guzman.

Geovanni Barjas, 32, is seen in a booking photo from the Los Angeles Police Department.
Geovanni Barjas, 32, is seen in a booking photo from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police suspect both women were kidnapped and killed, though investigators did not say if Borjas knew the women or not.

During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said DNA played a key role in Borjas' arrest.

Detectives were able to connect the two cases through forensic evidence, Beck said. Then, detectives fulfilled "exhaustive protocols" required by the California Attorney General's Office to request a familial DNA search.

This was done because the DNA of the suspect responsible for the killings was not in the California database, nor was it in the national database, Beck said.

"We've had two successful familial searches in the history of Los Angeles Police Department. The first one, also done by Robbery-Homicide, was for the Grim Sleeper," Beck said.

The familial search turned up a contributory match, identifying Borjas' father, who was in the system for a "non-sexual-assault-type crime earlier in his life," the chief said.

After much background investigation, detectives identified Borjas as a possible suspect in the killings and collected a "surreptitious DNA sample."

"They did this by following the individual. During that following, he spit on the sidewalk. Detectives collected that, and the DNA was a match. It was a match to both of these murders," Beck said.

Borjas was arrested last Thursday from his home in Torrance. He was charged Tuesday with two counts each of murder and forcible rape and one count of kidnapping, according to a statement released by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Borjas also faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of a rape and a kidnapping, making him eligible for the death penalty, the DA's office said.

Lozano disappeared while walking to a store near her home in Lincoln Heights on April 24, 2011. One day later, her nude body was found wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed inside a plastic container that was dumped in the brush near the Cesar Chavez Avenue off-ramp from the southbound 5 Freeway in East Los Angeles. An autopsy found she had been strangled to death.

Guzman, a mother of two, had walked to a Rite Aid store near Avenue 26 and Daly Street in Boyle Heights to buy cough medicine on Dec. 26, 2011, but she never returned home. Her partially clothed body was found on Jan. 26, 2012 alongside the Riverside Drive on-ramp to the southbound 2 Freeway in the Silver Lake area. An autopsy found she had been strangled to death.

According to prosecutors, both victims were sexually assaulted, and DNA evidence recovered at both crime scenes tied Borjas to the murders.

The families of both victims spoke publicly after learning about Borjas' arrest. Lozano's father said he has lit a candle every night since she went missing in her honor.

He said he's been frustrated with the pace of the investigation and thought the police were not doing everything possible to find her killer. When he learned about the arrest, he was overwhelmed with emotion.

Guzman's father said he had a gut feeling there would be good news when he was contacted by detectives out of the blue.

"I felt it when we went to the station, but when we got to the station, I knew. I knew it. I'm ecstatic. It was six years. Honestly, I lost hope. I really did," Ricardo Duran said.

If convicted as charged, Borjas faces the death penalty or life in state prison without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty is expected to be made at a later date.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.