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Woman Charged With Kidnapping And Murdering 15-Year-Old Girl In 2002

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Twelve years after an East Los Angeles teenager was kidnapped, raped and murdered in East Los Angeles, investigators have arrested and charged one woman, and say they anticipate arresting three others this month.

Brenda Sierra was a 15-year-old student at Schurr High School in Montebello when she disappeared walking to a friend's home in October of 2002, KTLA reports. Her body was found the next day in the "Valley of Enchantment" area in Crestline. Police arrested Rosemary Chavira—then 15, now 27—at her Lancaster home on Friday, according to a release from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. She has been charged with special circumstances of felony murder during the commission of a kidnapping and rape, plus gang allegations. Chavira faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

Sierra had left her own home after 7 a.m. on October 18, 2002. She was only walking five blocks, where she was going to catch a lift with her friend's mother to school, according to CNN. Authorities say she was kidnapped near Whittier Blvd. and Leonard Avenue in East L.A., then taken to a nearby home in the 600 block of Williamson Avenue where she was sexually assaulted. Then, she was then transported to another home, this one in the 900 block of Miller Avenue, where she was bludgeoned to death. Her body was then taken 75 miles away to the Crestline area, placed at the end of a foot trail in a wooded area.

The case was first investigated by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, then transferred to the L.A. County Sheriff's Homicide Bureau in 2008. In 2009, L.A. County Sheriff's Department's Detective Larry Bradenburg asked for the public's help with two cold cases: Sierra's murder, and the 1976 murder of Karen Klaas, the ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley.

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Bradenburg said then that investigators thought that perhaps Sierra was murdered by a gang, though Sierra was not involved with gangs. However, Sierra's brother had witnessed a shooting weeks before Sierra's disappearance. In 2009, investigators identified Jorge Barraza, a man who was associated with the gang activity in the area, as a person of interest.

In December of 2014, investigators said they'd found new witnesses, identified the home where Sierra was assaulted and again said Sierra was murdered to silence her brother. In an interview with Fox 11, Brandenburg then said they'd set their sights on five suspects—including a young woman—and encouraged anyone with more information to contact them.