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Sex offender accused of rape and murder in 1980s cold case pleads not guilty

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17, 2019 - Robert Yniguez, appeared in Torrance Superior Court with his Publi
Robert Yniguez, in Torrance Superior Court on June 17, is charged with killing Teresa Broudreaux, who was found dead on a Palos Verdes Estates beach nearly 40 years ago.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A San Pedro man facing a capital murder charge in the 1980 cold case slaying of a pregnant woman pleaded not guilty Monday.

Robert Yniguez was arrested in September 2017 in connection with death of Teresa Broudreaux after DNA evidence found on the woman’s body was linked to the registered sex offender.

Yniguez, who served time in prison after a rape conviction in the 1980s, is facing one count of murder with the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape. The charge makes him eligible for the death penalty.

Broudreaux’s nude body was found on the morning of March 4, 1980, on a rocky beach at Malaga Cove in Palos Verdes Estates. The 20-year-old was pregnant and also had a 4-year-old daughter. She died of blunt-force trauma to the head. Officials said in 2017 the motive in her killing appeared to be sexual assault.

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Monday’s arraignment in Torrance Superior Court came after the original case, filed in October 2017, was dismissed in April as the prosecution requested more time to secure a witness. The case was refiled shortly after. Yniguez is scheduled to return to court July 22.

“I’ve waited a long time for this day,” Broudreaux’s husband, Ronnie Fematt, said through tears at a news conference held after Yniguez’s 2017 arrest. “It has been a long time, what I’ve been through, the uncertainty of not knowing why or how.”

The California newlyweds had gotten into an argument the night of Broudreaux’s disappearance, and Fematt was immediately considered a possible suspect in his young wife’s slaying. For decades, Fematt said, he endured suspicious stares and rumors from neighbors and co-workers who thought he was responsible for Broudreaux’s death.

“I felt like a suspect,” he told The Times. “I wasn’t the one.”

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Fematt said he had been married to Broudreaux, who worked at a Jack in the Box and loved music, for only five months.

Authorities said in 2017 that DNA originally collected at the scene paired with new DNA technology developed years later led to an arrest in the case that had been filed as “unsolved.”

“Years later, a series of coincidences and new DNA technology produced an unexpected break in the case,” then-Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at the time.

Times staff writers Nicole Santa Cruz and Doug Smith contributed to this report.


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