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‘Every citizen’s worst nightmare’: Man accused of torture, murder, sex assault in home invasion

Eduardo Jose Torres
Eduardo Jose Torres, 20, stands before a judge during his arraignment June 15.
(Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A 20-year-old man is facing a string of felony charges — including murder, assault and torture — after a break-in at a Del Cerro home where two women were held at knifepoint.

Eduardo Jose Torres is accused of holding the two women hostage, sexually assaulting  one of them and fatally stabbing the other in Sunday’s attack.

The woman who was killed was identified in court documents as Ut Nguyen, who lived in the house and was the mother of the homeowner. She was 74.

Torres pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court. In addition to murder and other felony charges, he faces special-circumstance allegations, including murder during an attempted rape, that make him eligible for the death penalty.

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Prosecutors have not determined whether they will seek Torres’ execution or a sentence of life in prison without parole if he is convicted.

During Torres’ arraignment, Deputy Dist. Atty. Marisa Di Tillio described what happened to the victims as “every citizen’s worst nightmare.” She said the defendant tried to break into another home on Mill Peak Road late that night but was chased away.

He then jumped a fence and entered the house next door, she said.

While the homeowner was at the front of the house speaking to his neighbors, who had just chased away the intruder, Torres entered the house from the rear through a sliding glass door and managed to lock out the homeowner, the prosecutor said.

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The two women inside the home had locked themselves inside separate bedrooms. But the intruder kicked in the bedroom door where Nguyen was hiding, grabbed her and dragged her to the door of the other room, where a 50-year-old woman had taken shelter, Di Tillio said.

The younger woman, who was visiting from another state, opened the door to try to calm the intruder, the prosecutor said. Instead, he pushed his way into the room, locked the door behind him and sexually assaulted her.

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Di Tillio said there is no evidence that the woman who was killed was sexually assaulted, but the investigation is not complete.

San Diego police had been called about the first break-in attempt and were on their way to the neighborhood when the intruder broke into the second house. A SWAT team was called in.

 During the attack, Torres cut the 50-year-old woman with a knife to get her to scream so the officers would back off, the prosecutor said.

Eventually, Di Tillio said, Torres was found in a bedroom with a knife in his hand. Police described it as a 10-inch hunting knife.

Because of the seriousness of the charges, Judge Frederick Maguire ordered the defendant held in county jail without bail and ordered him to stay away from the surviving victim. The judge appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent Torres.

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No details about Torres’ criminal past were revealed in the courtroom, although San Diego homicide Lt. Manny Del Toro has said Torres has a violent criminal history. San Diego Superior Court records show only that Torres pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor vandalism charge in 2015.

He was placed on probation for three years.

Littlefield writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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