The body of 19-year-old Andrea Vazquez was found by detectives in a Moreno Valley vegetation field late Monday night after she was shot at and kidnapped from a Whittier parking lot early Sunday morning.
Gabriel Esparza, 20, of Whittier, was arrested at his workplace in Lakewood in connection with the shooting and kidnapping of Vazquez. He has been booked on murder and kidnapping charges.
On Wednesday, Esparza appeared for the first time in court and pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping and attempted rape.
Gabriel Esparza, 20, of Whittier has been arrested in connection with the shooting and kidnapping of 19-year-old Andrea Vazquez.
Vazquez was last seen just after midnight Sunday in the parking lot of Penn Park, located at 13950 Penn Street, according to a statement from Whittier Police Department.
She was in the car with her boyfriend, when an armed suspect approached the car and began firing shots in their direction.
A critical missing person police bulletin went out as the search was on for Vazquez following her kidnapping. Vazquez's family was desperately hoping for her safe return.
"It's a terrible day for me today," said her mother, Ana. "I had a lot of hope to find her alive, hoping that God gave me the miracle and nothing happened."
"It's hard to get rest, it just feels guilty to even sleep," said Vazquez's older sister, Edlyn on Monday, when the search was still underway. "She's a homebody. She was my best friend."
She says that she tracked Andrea's phone to Moreno Valley.
"When I got to that spot, that night, police were called. They had drones, they had canines, they had a lot of people searching that area," she said. "But, we don't really know much more."
Detectives discovered Vazquez's body around 11:50 p.m. Monday in a field near where the phone was located, on Alessandro Boulevard and Merwin Street in Moreno Valley.
The Whittier Police Department believes it was a random attack and that Esparza had no known connection to Vazquez or her family.
Detectives recovered Esparza's 2013 White Toyota Tacoma truck and a weapon that was believed to be used in the crime. Esparza is being held without bail.
Neighbors and friends gathered at the Vazquez household on Tuesday evening to join the family in prayer and support, while dozens of community members held a vigil at the park where she was kidnapped.