Teacher Hopes to Name Scholarship in Slain Girl’s Honor

A teacher considers raising money for a scholarship to honor a girl kidnapped and killed more than 12 years ago.

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Ken Seto remembers Brenda Sierra's laugh and the times she talked about one day going to college in his career exploration class at Montebello's Schurr High School in 2002.

He remembers the 15-year-old's upbeat attitude and that she was a top fundraiser by selling candy, food and knickknacks for a mentorship program called Renaissance that helped motivate students.

"This kid was special," Seto said. "She was so happy. She wanted to become a great student."

Brenda didn't get the chance.

She was kidnapped on her way to school on Oct. 18, 2002, then repeatedly raped and killed. Her beaten body was found the next day 50 miles away in the San Bernardino Mountains.

After more than 12 years, deputies announced last month an arrest in the case and promised three more. Rosemary Chavira, who was 15 at the time and a classmate of Brenda's, pleaded not guilty to kidnap and murder charges in a case detectives say was gang retaliation because Brenda's brother had testified in court against gang members.

Seto was relieved to hear about an arrest.

"I felt really good for the family," he said. "I just saw how much the pain and the suffering ... nobody could put the pieces together. It didn't make sense."

For Seto, the news not only brought closure but it also rekindled talk of naming a scholarship in Brenda's honor.

Seto said he'd nominate the scholarship to someone like Brenda — fun, outgoing, energetic — in May or June and select the winner from the next graduating class. He said he'd try to raise $1,000 annually.

"We'll look for a student who's really trying to improve," Seto said.

Seto is hoping to meet soon with Brenda's sister, Fabiola Saavedra, to pitch the idea.

Saavedra did not return calls seeking comment, but in a 2009 article for the Los Angeles Times she said she kept her sister's memory alive.

"I cry for her," she told The Times. "But I have to move on."

Seto's convinced a scholarship is the best way to honor a special girl.

"Brenda didn't have an opportunity to go to college or her senior prom," Seto said. "I want to give someone a chance to do all the things that Brenda didn't get to do.

"It keeps the memory of Brenda with us. We can continue to tell kids about opportunities that you may assume you're going to have and sometimes not lucky enough to get."

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