Man is charged with fatally shooting his ex-wife and wounding her boyfriend during child custody exchange

A 38-year-old man has been charged with killing the mother of his two children and wounding her boyfriend in South Whittier during a child custody exchange, prosecutors announced Wednesday

Efrem Ruben Lozoya, 38, turned himself in to police shortly after fatally shooting his ex-wife, Nereida Villanueva, and wounding her boyfriend Saturday and is charged with murder and attempted murder, Los Angeles County prosecutors said. He faces up to 75 years to life in prison if convicted.

Villanueva, 33, died at the scene inside her apartment in the 13900 block of Coteau Drive in the unincorporated community of South Whittier.

Lozoya and Villanueva were “involved in a child exchange” when Lozoya shot her and the male victim “for unknown reasons,” Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Rouzan said.


Lozoya and Villanueva have been divorced for several years, authorities said.

The couple have two children together, ages 7 and 9, Rouzan said. The children were not injured and it was “unclear if the children witnessed any portions of this crime,” he said.

When deputies arrived they found that Villanueva and the male victim had both been shot at least once in the upper torso. Villanueva was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff’s officials said Lozoya is employed by a contractor that provides jail services to the Montebello Police Department.


The Montebello City Jail is operated by the GEO Group Inc., a private correctional firm, under the oversight of the Police Department, according to the city’s website. It has a 20-bed capacity.

Past media reports and a 2015 audit of the facility available at the GEO Group’s website identify Lozoya as the jail’s administrator.

Prosecutors are seeking to increase Lozoya’s bail from $2 million to $5 million on Wednesday.

Staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.


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