Police ID body found in trunk of car as missing mother Erica Perez

A man believed to be Daniel Perez, center, is swarmed by police officers as he appears to try to jump from an elevated transition road at the end of a pursuit in San Diego County.
(John Gibbins / U-T San Diego)

The body of a woman found inside the trunk of a car was identified as Erica Perez, the mother of four boys who, along with their father, went missing last week but were found Thursday in San Diego, Montebello police said.

The cause of her death will be determined by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Daniel Perez was taken into custody on suspicion of abducting his four children, ages 6 to 11, who were taken away by law enforcement after a standoff with police on a San Diego County freeway. Perez has not been arrested on suspicion for his wife’s death, police said, but he remains a person of interest in the case.

Perez was en route back to Montebello, escorted by detectives. The boys, who were also returning to Montebello, are in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services.


“It’s been a pretty traumatic few days for the kids,” Montebello Police Capt. Luis Lopez said.

Authorities said Daniel Perez was caught thanks to his car’s Lo-Jack tracking system.

After a statewide Amber Alert was initiated Wednesday night for Perez’s four sons, authorities activated the device, even though Perez hadn’t done so, Montebello police said.

Police found the car about 8:23 a.m. Thursday stopped in an El Cajon industrial park, said El Cajon police Lt. Mike Multon. Because the car’s windows are tinted, officers didn’t know if Perez or the children were in the car, he said, so they called for backup.

But while officers were waiting for reinforcements, Perez drove off, leading to a short pursuit. He eventually stopped on an elevated transition road between the 52 and 67 freeways.

While CHP officers set up behind the car, sharpshooters and other tactical officers took positions on adjacent roads. Police then realized that Perez’s four sons were in the car, Multon said.

Over the next hour, police talked to Perez on a cellphone to negotiate his surrender. Two of his boys escaped during the standoff and ran into the arms of waiting police. The other two were rescued when Perez emerged from the car and was tackled by waiting officers.


At one point, it appeared Perez was considering jumping off the freeway.

None of the children was injured. The family of six -- Perez, 43, Erica Perez, 39, and their four sons -- were said to have been missing since Friday. A report was filed Wednesday and the Amber Alert was issued after a woman’s body was found in the trunk of the family car.

Relatives made a public plea Wednesday for Perez to return his four children.

“Please, Daniel, please just drop the kids off,” said a sobbing Pamela Valdez, the children’s aunt, in an emotional news conference. “Don’t hurt them, please, they are innocent .… You’re breaking our hearts.”

Family members said the couple had an “unstable” marriage and a history of domestic violence, according to police.

Staff writers Veronica Rocha, Richard Winton, Christine Mai-Duc and Tony Perry contributed to this report.

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