Man charged in cold case

GLENDALE — A 52-year-old Los Angeles man has been charged with killing two women, one of whom was a Glendale resident whose body was discovered 14 years ago on a Mexican roadside.

On Tuesday, Glendale police officials made a plea for the public's help in bolstering their case, including witnesses who may have known the missing women — Esperanza Torio, 39, of Glendale and Maria Santos, 44, of Los Angeles — or have had any contact with their alleged killer, Aurangzeb "Simon" Manjra.

"We are not ruling out the fact that there may be other missing women out there," Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. "We certainly hope there are no other victims out there."

Manjra, a salesman, had allegedly dated Torio and Santos before they were reported missing, Lorenz said.

He was arrested in May on suspicion of killing the women after police were able to connect him to key pieces of evidence tied to their disappearance, Lorenz said.

Santos' body remains missing.

Still, prosecutors filed two counts of murder on May 20 against Manjra, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court complaint.

Prosecutors couldn't go into detail about the case because of pending litigation, and it hasn't gone to a preliminary hearing, said Shiara Dávila-Morales, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

She noted, though, that the district attorney has tried and won cases in which no body was found.

"These types of cases are not that unusual," Dávila-Morales said.

Torio's sister reported her sibling missing on Aug. 16, 1996, after she failed to return to their home in the 100 block of East Chestnut Street, Lorenz said.

Torio, who raised two teenage boys as a single mother, had recently landed a new full-time job and was preparing to move into a new Glendale apartment at the time of her disappearance.

At the time, there were so few leads that Glendale police investigators couldn't determine a reason for her disappearance or even if a crime had occurred, Lorenz said.

Manjra was a suspect, but police were unable to link him at the time.

Days after Torio was reported missing, Mexican authorities found her body dumped along a road in Playas De Rosarito, but because they didn't know she was reported missing, no connection was made, Lorenz said.

Meanwhile, another police agency also dealing with a case involving a woman who was suspected of being abducted and taken to Mexico, requested DNA samples from the body, Lorenz said.

The DNA profile that resulted was entered into a California database in the chance there was ever a match.

Then in 2009, Glendale police investigators were reviewing cold cases when they came upon Torio's report.

"They are not completely forgotten," Lorenz said.

Glendale investigators decided to take DNA samples from Torio's family members and found a match that connected them to the body discovered in Mexico, Lorenz said.

Police again focused their investigation on Manjra and discovered that he had also dated Santos in 2004, Lorenz added.

Santos had also been reported missing on Oct. 15, 2004, to the Los Angeles police, who had also failed to track her down, he said.

Police are now trying to outline that last 30 years of Manjra's life, Lorenz said. His last known home address was in the 900 block of Serrano Avenue in Los Angeles. His business address was also in Los Angeles, in the 100 block of Vermont Avenue.

He is being held without bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. A preliminary hearing for Manjra is set for Jan. 27 in a Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Anyone with details about the victims or Manjra is asked to call Det. Petros Kmbikyan in the Glendale Police Department's Homicide Unit at (818) 548-3987. Anonymous tips can be made at Glendale Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

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