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Missing teen found in Mexico with mother, a wanted suspect in Carson killing

Alora Benitez, Maricela Mercado and Roman Cerratos
Alora Benitez, left, who had been missing since April, was found with her mother, Maricela Mercado, center, in Mexico on Tuesday. Mercado and Roman Cerratos, right, were arrested in connection with a Carson homicide investigation.
(Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

A missing teenage girl has been found in Mexico with her mother, a fugitive who was arrested in connection with a Carson homicide investigation.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday that 15-year-old Alora Benitez was recovered safely after she was located with her mother, Maricela Mercado, who was arrested by police as a suspect in the April 16 shooting of Jeffrey Appel.

Police said Mercado, 40, and Benitez were detained in Chihuahua, Mexico, on Tuesday before they were deported to the U.S. for being deemed to have entered Mexico illegally. They were taken to the Paso Del Norte port of entry, where they were delivered to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, police said. Mercado was then arrested by police in El Paso because of a warrant for her arrest and will remain in custody there pending extradition to California.

Mercado’s arrest comes after Roman Cerratos, 39, was extradited to Los Angeles from Mexico in June as a suspect in the homicide investigation. Investigators linked Cerratos and Mercado to the killing of 32-year-old Appel, whose body was found April 16 in the front seat of a white Audi parked in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive in Carson.

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Benitez had last been seen in Torrance in April with Mercado and Cerratos in a white 2013 BMW sedan. Police said Benitez is now in the custody of FBI agents and victim/witness advocates pending her return to California, where she can be with relatives.

Sheriff’s officials said their investigation into the shooting death of Appel is ongoing and no additional information was available on the case Wednesday.


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