DNA extracted from a man’s saliva found on a sidewalk was key in securing a conviction in the separate murders and sexual assaults of a teenager and woman that took place more than a decade ago.
Geovanni Borjas, 37, pleaded no contest to the 2011 killings of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman, prosecutors announced Monday. Borjas entered his plea to two counts each of first-degree murder and forcible rape, as well as a single count of kidnapping. He also admitted to special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, including murder in the commission of a rape and a kidnapping.
“Both families have endured a tremendous and incalculable loss,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “The pain for the victims’ families will never go away but I want to make sure they continue to receive the services they need as they move forward.”
Borjas now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12.
“Mr. Borjas finally took account for his heinous actions and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Gascón added.
Lozano vanished on April 24, 2011, according to the FBI. She was last seen across from Lincoln High School in Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights neighborhood. Her body was later located the following day along Interstate 5.
A homeless person found the teenager's nude body in a damaged open container on the side of the highway and tipped off authorities, according to a 2011 Los Angeles Times report.
The 17-year-old's body had been wrapped in plastic bags and jammed in the plastic container, police said. The container, which authorities suspect had been thrown onto a concrete freeway barrier, split open when it hit the ground before landing in the brush.
A coroner later concluded Lozano died from asphyxia by strangulation. Her death was subsequently ruled a homicide.
Months later, on Dec. 26, 2011, Guzman vanished after leaving a Lincoln Heights Rite Aid pharmacy at around 7:30 p.m. Her decomposing remains were ultimately found along the Glendale Freeway approximately a month later. She had suffered unspecified neck trauma, according to NBC News.
Both victims, who lived less than a mile from each other, the Los Angeles Times reported, had been sexually assaulted, officials said. DNA evidence was also collected from both crime scenes. At the time, investigators weren’t certain the two slayings were linked to one another. Homicide detectives ultimately convinced the state Attorney General to conduct a familial DNA search.
Law enforcement soon zeroed in on Borjas’ father, who also had a criminal record, after carrying out the familiar search.
"After the familial search, a person was identified as a contributory match to the suspect," since-retired Police Chief Charlie Beck said, Fox affiliate KTTV reported. "That individual was [the] suspect's father, who was arrested on a non-sexual-assault- type crime earlier in his life."
Additional investigation later led authorities to identify Borjas as Lozano and Guzman’s possible killer.
Homicide detectives conducting surveillance of Borjas later managed to collect a sample of his saliva after witnessing him spit on a sidewalk. After testing the saliva, investigators concluded it matched the DNA evidence collected from the two crime scenes where Lozano and Guzman’s bodies were found.
Borjas was arrested in 2017. His sentencing is set for Dec. 12.
Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty against Borjas, however, following the election of Gascón, who opposes the death penalty, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office reversed course, opting not to pursue capital punishment.
The move enraged Guzman's family who described the decision as a "slap in the face," KABC-TV reported.