For more than a week, the circumstances surrounding the death of a 21-year-old UCLA student were a mystery.
Firefighters found Andrea DelVesco’s body in a burning Westwood apartment a block from the campus, where she was a fourth-year psychology student.
As details about her life emerged, Los Angeles police detectives delved into whether the killing was tied to her recent prosecution on charges of possessing a cocktail of party drugs, including Ecstasy and meth.
But on Tuesday, prosecutors charged Alberto Hinojosa Medina and Eric Marquez — both 22-year-old students — with murder in DelVesco’s death, saying Medina stabbed her after burglarizing a nearby apartment and then breaking into her home.
Medina is also accused of setting fire to the apartment on Roebling Avenue before fleeing.
He and Marquez pleaded not guilty at a Tuesday afternoon hearing in the county’s Airport Courthouse, where each appeared dressed in blue jail shirts and pants.
During a discussion in court over whether the men should be granted bail, Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Avila said surveillance video captured Medina wearing a Snuggie blanket belonging to DelVesco “covering up blood on his shirt.” Avila told a judge that DelVesco’s property was later recovered from Medina’s home in Fresno.
A witness saw Marquez in Medina’s car — emblazoned with distinct red Greek lettering on the back — near DelVesco’s apartment, the prosecutor said. The witness had a brief conversation with Marquez and then saw Medina walk to the apartment, Avila said.
Another witness, he said, later saw the pair leave in the car.
“It was a getaway vehicle,” the prosecutor said.
The men were responsible for a burglary in which a laptop and stereo speakers were stolen from another apartment nearby before DelVesco was killed, Avila said.
Marquez’s attorney, Steve Cron, argued that his client — a senior in pre-med at UCLA — should be granted bail because he has no prior criminal record. Marquez, the attorney said, is accused of aiding and abetting, not carrying out the killing.
“He is someone who has never been in trouble before,” Cron said.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set Marquez’s bail at $1.1 million.
Medina was denied bail because he faces a special-circumstance allegation that he committed murder while carrying out a burglary. The special circumstance would make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
Dmitry Gorin, Medina’s attorney, said he hasn’t seen police reports from the investigation but maintains his client’s innocence. Medina is a junior at Fresno State University, where he was studying psychology and social work.
The judge rejected a media request to photograph the defendants and barred a sketch artist from drawing the pair, noting that eyewitness identification is a key issue in the case.
Both men face one count of murder and two counts of first-degree burglary. Medina is also charged with arson.
Earlier in the day, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said there was a “considerable amount” of forensic evidence in the case, along with statements from witnesses, linking Marquez and
Medina to DelVesco’s death.
“This was a horrific crime that I know shocked the school and much of Los Angeles,” Beck said. “I know that I am sleeping more comfortably at night and the public should also.”
DelVesco was stabbed at least 19 times, according to a source familiar with details about the case.
Firefighters found DelVesco’s body on Sept. 21 as they searched a smoke-filled apartment in a complex about a block from the Westwood campus.
She was pronounced dead at the scene and detectives canvassed the neighborhood with fliers last week, asking the public for help in solving the case.
Police arrested Medina on Saturday at his home in Fresno, the LAPD said, and Marquez was arrested the next day near his Westwood apartment.
DelVesco was a native of Austin, Texas. Her sorority sisters identified her as a member of Pi Beta Phi.
Court records show DelVesco was charged this summer with drug possession. She pleaded not guilty and was scheduled to appear in court last week, the district attorney’s office said.
Melanie Peskett, DelVesco’s aunt, said the victim’s relatives were overwhelmed with grief, but glad that the two suspects were in custody.
Times staff writers Kate Mather and Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.
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