Man Traveling with Teen, Her Mother Charged With Murder

A man who was believed to be traveling with a 15 year-old girl and her mother was charged Tuesday with the April kidnapping and murder of another man, prosecutors said.

Roman Cerratos, 39, of Hawaii, was charged with one count each of murder, kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

He also faces special allegations that he personally used a handgun and a knife during the commission of the crime.

Cerratos is accused of kidnapping, stabbing and shooting Jeffrey Appel, 32 on April 16. He had been shot multiple times in the neck and upper body, according to coroner's records. His body was found in his car in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive in Carson.

Cerratos was detained last week in Mexico and was deported to Los Angeles where he was arrested.

A $10,000 reward was being offered for information leading to the safe recovery of the 15-year-old girl whose mother is also a suspect in the killing of Appel.

Investigators said Alora Benitez was last seen April 17 in Torrance with her mother, 40-year-old Maricela Mercado, and Cerratos.


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Detectives said they were concerned for Alora's safety because of the "extreme violence" used to kill Appel.

After an Amber Alert was issued for the teen, a white BMW sedan used by the suspects was recovered in San Diego, in the area of San Ysidro, a major border crossing.

There’s an urgent search for a missing 15-year-old girl. She was last seen with her mother who’s a prime suspect in a murder case. Annette Arreola reports for Today in LA on Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Mercado shares custody of her daughter with the girl's father, who authorities said had no involvement in the homicide.

Eimiller told City News Service on Saturday that he girl and her mother were still being sought.

NBC4 emailed Eimiller for an update on Tuesday.

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