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Crime

L.A. Man Accused of the 2011 Rape and Murder of Two Women Whose Bodies Were Found Near the Freeway

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Bree'Anna Guzman (left) and Michelle Lozano
FBI

A Los Angeles man suspected of killing two young women in 2011 and dumping their bodies alongside the freeway has been arrested, PEOPLE confirms.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department announced the arrest of 32-year-old Geovanni Borjas for the slayings. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office later charged him with two counts each of murder and forcible rape and one count of kidnapping.

Borjas also faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of a rape and a kidnapping, which makes him eligible for the death penalty.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and was denied bail. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

According to police, the first victim was 17-year-old Michelle Lozano, who was kidnapped near Lincoln High School in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood on April 25, 2011. Her strangled and nude body was found the next day wrapped in plastic bags inside a container the next day near the southbound 5 Freeway in nearby Boyle Heights.

Nine months later, on Dec. 26, 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman,left her home around 7 p.m. to get throat lozenges at Rite-Aid and never came home. The mother of two’s decomposing body was found a month later, on Jan. 26, 2012, along the Glendale 2 Freeway ramp in L.A.’s Echo Park.

The two cases were eerily similar: Lozano and Guzman went to the same high school, though not at the same time, and lived just four blocks away from each other.

Police said both victims were sexually assaulted and DNA evidence recovered at both crimes scenes connected the two cases.

However, the suspect’s DNA was not in any federal or state databank. On Tuesday, L.A. police said that familial DNA testing had finally given them the match they needed.

Geovanni Borjas
Courtesy LAPD

A Crack in the Case at Last?

Familial testing, a controversial law enforcement tactic allowing investigators to search for potential relative of the killer in the state’s felon DNA data bank, came back as a match for Borjas’ father, who was previously arrested, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

Later, detectives surreptitiously followed Borjas and obtained a DNA sample after he spit on a sidewalk. He was arrested at his Torrance, California, home on Thursday.

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During Tuesday’s news conference, Beck said he didn’t believe the victims knew Borjas. “He worked at a medical supply location,” Beck said. “It has thousands of patients and we think there might be a connection there.”

In 2014, Borjas’ former girlfriend filed a domestic violence restraining order against him, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The woman alleged that Borjas broke her nose, choked her and pushed her down the stairs during their two-and-a-half year relationship, the paper reports.

It is the third time a familial search has been used to catch a killer in Los Angeles County. In 2010, authorities caught “Grim Sleeper” serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. after his his 28-year-old son was arrested on a weapons charge in 2009 and had to give up a DNA swab.

Then, in January of this year, police said they solved the 1976 murder of Karen Klaas, the 32-year-old ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley, through a familial search. In that case, the match came from a first-degree relative.

Victims Mom Speaks Out

In an interview last year, Darlene Guzman said her daughter, Bree’Anna, worked at a kiosk selling fleece leggings and had plans to one day work as a baker.

“We were baking out of the house, selling to my friends, neighbors and word of mouth,” she said. “She would make cookies, tarts cheesecakes, cakes. Our ultimate goal was to have a mobile truck and sell Starbucks and delicacies.”

Guzman always held out hope that her daughter’s killer would one day be caught.

“It is life changing,” she said about her daughter’s death. “I wish I could have held onto her and not let her walk out the door. I gave her life so she could have a life and make the choices she made.

“It has been very difficult, but I have learned coping mechanisms and adjust to the idea she is not here anymore and accept that she is gone and is in a better place. It is really hard. I miss her so very much. She was my daughter, but she was my confident and my friend and my little buddy. She was everything.”