Suspect Arrested in 1996 Homicide of Boyle Heights Girl, Extradited from Texas
After almost a quarter-century, the man suspected of killing a 17-year-old girl was identified and slated to face arraignment. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Homicide Bureau detective, Lieutenant Hugo Reynaga, discussed the circumstances surrounding the young girl’s death, how they located the suspect and how he was brought back to face justice.
On Tuesday, January 30, 1996, the partially-clothed body of Gladys Arellano was discovered at the bottom of a ravine in the Topanga Canyon area of Malibu. The last time she was last seen was three days earlier at her Boyle Heights home, and she was reported missing by her family one day before her body was found.
The results of an autopsy concluded the teen was sexually assaulted, beaten, and strangled to death. Serology evidence was collected from her body, and a DNA profile was uploaded into state and federal DNA databases as that of an unknown offender. Although an extensive investigation was conducted, no match was identified through the DNA databases, and the case remained unsolved.
On Sunday, November 10, 2019, virtually two and a half decades later, a man named Jose Luis Garcia, was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)-Mission Division personnel for a domestic assault charge. A DNA sample was collected from him during the booking procedure and uploaded into the state DNA database.
In December, 2019, detectives assigned to the Homicide Bureau-Unsolved Case Unit received an alert on the DNA collected during the LAPD-Mission Division jail booking, which returned as a match to the evidence collected in the Gladys Arellano homicide investigation. Detectives Joe Purcell and Shaun McCarthy contacted Garcia at his home in Fontana and asked about his knowledge of the Arellano murder; Garcia was 19 years old when it happened. They obtained a DNA sample from Garcia for comparison and submitted it for forensic testing. Serologists analyzed it and determined Garcia’s sample matched the unidentified donor’s sample obtained in 1996 from the body of Gladys Arellano.
After the detectives’ visit, and as the new DNA sample was processed, detectives learned Garcia relocated to Dallas, Texas. An arrest warrant for Garcia, 43, was obtained, and Detective Purcell notified U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Forces personnel in Dallas.
On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, Garcia was arrested by task force personnel in Dallas. He was extradited to California on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, arraigned for the charge of Murder on Monday, October 19, 2020, at Van Nuys court, and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Samantha Moreno, Gladys’ niece and goddaughter, spoke during the press conference, and thanked the detectives for arresting Garcia and not giving up on (finding) their Gladys. “We are pleased to know that Jose Luis Garcia has been taken off the streets after 24 ½ years,” she said. “We want nothing more than for him to pay for his brutal crime. We recognize that this will not bring Gladys back, but we are relieved to know that there will be justice for Gladys, who would have celebrated her 42nd birthday on Saturday, October 24th.”
Elizabeth Arellano, Gladys’ older sister, also spoke at the press conference. She and Samantha held hands tightly and stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they waited their turn to speak. In Spanish, she also thanked the detectives and recalled the heartbreaking loss of her sister, ”It was very painful for everyone to lose her and to wait 24 ½ years without knowing who robbed her of life.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau-Unsolved Case Unit is comprised of twelve retired homicide detectives who returned to work on a part-time basis. They use their collective experience of more than 500 years to continue solving stale cases. These detectives hold in high regard that each case represents a life taken and accept the responsibility of tenacious pursuit to determine the circumstances surrounding the loss, no matter how long it takes. They pore over each investigation and take all the pieces of workable information and unexhausted leads as far as they will go. Newly-discovered witnesses, advancements in science and technology, and anonymous tips contribute to these investigators’ successes. Each unsolved case remains active and available to them until it is fully concluded. The Unsolved Case Unit was furloughed due to budget cuts in July, 2020, but was refunded and reinstated when the Board of Supervisors allocated funding for it. With renewed funding, detectives can continue their efforts and progress toward solving other cases.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives are seeking any victims of assault or sexual assault that may have been in contact with Jose Luis Garcia.
Anyone with information, please contact Det. J. Purcell or Det. S. McCarthy, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.