Torres has also been found guilty of kidnapping. The trial will now enter the penalty phase. The jury will return to hear evidence Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
Torres could have faced the death penalty depending on the penalty phase of the trial. However, a moratorium has been placed on the death penalty in the state by an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday.
In the District Attorney's Office's release on the verdict, it was stated that DA Mike Hestrin will seek the death penalty in this case.
Jury finds Torres guilty of first-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Norma Lopez in 2010. They also found the special circumstance true. The case will go to penalty phase now on this death penalty case.
DA Hestrin said that the governor's decision will not affect their decision to seek the death penalty in this case.
"The victim, 17-year-old Norma Lopez, was kidnapped on July 15, 2010, as she walked from summer school at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley to a friend’s house. Five days later, her body was found in a dirt field about three miles away," read the DA's release. "Defendant Jesse Perez Torres was later identified as the suspect and was charged in October 2011 by our office with Norma’s murder."
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco speaks with the media outside the courthouse after jurors found Jesse Perez Torres, 42, guilty in the 2010 killing of Norma Lopez, 17, of Moreno Valley, in Dept. 44 of the Hall of Justice in Riverside on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Defense attorney John Dorr talks with defendant Jesse Perez Torres, 42, before he is found guilty in the 2010 killing of Norma Lopez, 17, of Moreno Valley, in Dept. 44 of the Hall of Justice in Riverside on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
This image provided by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department shows Norma Lopez, 17, a high school student who was walking home from summer school when she was abducted on July 15, 2010. Authorities found her belongings and signs of a struggle. Her body was found five days later in a field two miles away. Riverside County sheriff’s deputies investigating the murder of Lopez have impounded an SUV and searched a Moreno Valley home about three blocks from the field where she was kidnapped. (Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)
Norma Lopez, a missing girl from Moreno Valley, seen wearing the shirt she was wearing July 15, 2010, the day she disappeared.
Avel Rangel of Moreno Valley proudly wears a tattoo for his friend Norma Lopez who was born in 1992 and was murdered in 2010. Norma Lopez was murdered last year on the way to a friends home after summer school in Moreno Valley, Friday, July 15, 2011. (File photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo family members follow the casket of Norma Lopez during the start of her funeral service on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church in Moreno Valley. (Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo Norma Lopez, carying child, and Martin Lopez, parents of murdered teen Norma Lopez, follow the casket of Norma Lopez during the start of her funeral service on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church in Moreno Valley. (Stan Lim,The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo Elizabeth Lopez, at left center, wipes a tear as she and her sister Sonia, and father Martin Lopez speak, her brother Jose is at far right, at a press conference at the family home in Moreno Valley on Thursday, July 22, 2010. At left is Elizabeth and in center is Sonia. Norma Lopez was found murdered and this is the first time the family has talked since finding out. (File photo by Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo Moreno Valley police investigate near the corner of Dracaea Avenue and Theodore Street where human remains where discovered on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 in Moreno Valley. Police have not identified the remains, or even whether they belonged to a male or female. The body was found about two miles away from where Norma Lopez, a teenager who went missing last Thursday, was last known to have been. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo a memorial is started for Norma Lopez, on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 outside Valley View High School in Moreno Valley. Norma went missing last week and her body was discovered Tuesday. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo a memorial in honor of Norma Lopez is created on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 outside Valley View High School in Moreno Valley. Norma went missing last week and her body was discovered Tuesday. (Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In tis file photo Martin Lopez holds a photo of three of his daughters, Norma in front and center, at a press conference at the family home in Moreno Valley on Thursday, July 22, 2010. At left is Elizabeth and in center is Sonia. Norma Lopez was found murdered and this is the first time the family has talked since that knowledge. (File photo by Kurt Miller, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo Norma Lopez, mother of Norma Angelica Lopez, breaks down in tears at the end of funeral services for her daughter on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church Moreno Valley. Norma, who was 17, was abducted and murdered while walking home from summer school a couple weeks ago. Her body was discovered five days later. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
In this file photo a montage of photos of Norma Lopez is carried into the church before the start of her funeral service on Thursday, July 29, 2010 at Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church Moreno Valley. (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)
Moreno Valley Police Chief John Anderson announced the arrest of Jesse Perez Torres in connection with the murder of Norma Lopez during a press conference at Moreno Valley City Hall Friday.
In this file photo Jesse Perez Torres waits in Riverside Superior Court for his arraignment which was continued to a later date Friday. Jesse Perez Torres is charged with the murder of Moreno Valley Teen Norma Lopez. (File photo by Mark Zaleski, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Jesse Perez Torres, accused of slaying Moreno Valley teen Norma Lopez in 2010, appears in court for opening statements in death penalty trial on Tuesday February 5, 2019. (Photo by Milka Soko, Contributing Photographer)
Expand A Riverside County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found Jesse Perez Torres guilty of murdering 17-year-old Norma Angelica Lopez almost nine years ago after he had intercepted Lopez as she walked alone across a vacant field in Moreno Valley.
Included in the verdict is a special circumstance: Torres was found to have kidnapped the teen during a murder, making the 42-year-old eligible for the death penalty.
Torres was arrested at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2011, 15 months after Lopezs death. He was convicted at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday when the court clerk read the verdict form submitted by the jury foreman.
After the verdict was announced, Sheriff Chad Bianco, head of the Moreno Valley detective division during the investigation into the murder, exchanged hugs and handshakes with Lopezs family and law enforcement and told one of the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the case, Michael Kersse: Great job.
Thats a long time, the sheriff said to a reporter later, about the span from crime to conviction. My opinion is that the jury came to the right opinion and that Im glad for the family that its over.
Without a direct witness to the crime, jurors had to rely on DNA evidence that was debated by expert witnesses for both sides. DNA was found on an earring ripped from Lopezs ear during a struggle. And fibers found on Lopezs underwear matched fibers found in the home on Creekside Way in Moreno Valley where Torres lived at the time and in his SUV, Kersse said. Torres later moved to Long Beach.
We were working nonstop to find these leads, Bianco said. We owed it to the public, we owed it to the family.
The seven-man, five-woman jury will return Thursday afternoon to the downtown Riverside Hall of Justice courtroom of Judge Bernard J. Schwartz for the start of the penalty phase. They could vote to put Torres to death — despite Gov. Gavin Newsoms moratorium on carrying out that sentence — or send him to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
Family members of Torres and Lopez attended the hearing. They declined to speak to the media afterward. The prosecutors and defense attorneys also declined to comment on the case.
Lopez was abducted the morning of July 15, 2010, after she had attended a summer class at Valley View High. She was walking to a house in the 27300 block of Cottonwood Avenue to meet her younger sister, her boyfriend and others but never made it there.
Her partially clothed, decomposing body was found five days later beneath an olive tree three miles from a field where prosecutors say they believe she was taken.
Such a horrific crime happened in our community because predators live among us, Kersse told the jury on Monday.
Kersse said Torres lived on Creekside Way, opposite the high school, his wife had left him, and he was alone. He was drinking. He was depressed.
He was looking out the window at the teenage girls kissing their boyfriends on the corner, Kersse said. (And) each and every day he was watching, he was waiting, he was looking through the blinds, he was lusting.
The deputy district attorney said Torres waited for the one day her boyfriend did not meet her for her walk home.
Defense attorney John Dorr told jurors that flawed data from DNA, taken from Lopezs broken earring, was entered by a state Department of Justice lab analyst into the states Combined DNA Index System, which stores DNA samples of criminal offenders.
The state lab analyst had concluded the strongest DNA evidence from the two dozen matches turned out to be Torres.
If properly entered, Dorr told jurors, We would have many more than the 24 candidate matches we had in this case.
Once Torres was identified as a suspect, defense attorneys said, detectives ceased pursuing any other leads or possible suspects.