Hearing reveals grisly find of woman's remains

Mexican police on Wednesday described in gruesome detail discovering body parts in three separate trash bags that were later tied to a Glendale woman who was reported missing in 1996.

The discovery was detailed during the first day of testimony in a preliminary hearing for 52-year-old Aurangzeb “Simon” Manjra, who is charged with killing two women, including Esperanza Torio of Glendale.

Her remains were discovered on a Rosarito roadside on Aug. 18, 1996, among three black trash bags — her head and feet missing.

In Los Angeles County Superior Court Wednesday, Mexican police described the body parts as looking as though they had been cut recently.

“It was definitely a recent death,” Mexican Officer Guadalupe Haro Mejia testified.

In 2009, Glendale police detectives linked DNA extracted from the body parts to Torio, who was 39 when she was reported missing.

Torio and the other dead woman, Maria Santos, 44, of Los Angeles, allegedly dated Manjra, a salesman, before they were reported missing, police said. Santos was reported missing on Oct. 15, 2004. Her body has never been found, but authorities say they can still charge Manjra with her murder.

Torio, who raised two teenage boys as a single mother, was reported missing after failing to return to her home on Chestnut Street, police said.

Police detectives investigated her disappearance, but there were few leads.

Police said Manjra was a suspect, but they were unable to link him to Torio’s disappearance at the time.

Then in July 1997, Kara Davis, a Modesto police officer who was investigating a missing person’s case in her area, traveled to Mexico to get DNA samples from the body parts to determine whether it was the person she was trying to find.

The DNA didn’t match in her case, but the evidence was stored in a law enforcement database, Davis testified.

Years later, Glendale detectives were investigating cold cases when they decided to reopen Torio’s case, so they took DNA samples of her family members. They found that the samples matched the body parts found in Mexico.

No other headless bodies were discovered in the Mexican cities of Tecate, Rosarito and Tijuana, from 1995 to 1997, Haro Mejia testified — a period before drug cartels became more active and brazen in their public killings.

No witnesses were at the crime scene, although someone called in the location to the military, who notified local authorities, Mejia testified.

Rivera Henry testified that police never interviewed the caller.

Then on Sept. 10, 1996, a road worker reported to police that he had found a head buried in sand dunes, not far from where the body parts were discovered less than a month before, Rivera Henry said.

The head had long hair and was in a black plastic bag.

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