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Miguel Loza Wanted for Brutal Murder and Sexual Assaults in Santa Cruz

Miguel Loza Wanted
Miguel Loza Wanted for Brutal Murder and Sexual Assaults in Santa Cruz

UPDATE: SANTA CRUZ — A man suspected of raping two 17-year-old girls and killing one of them in 2003 has been extradited from Mexico, where he has been living since fleeing the U.S.

ID #05-073 Miguel Ramirez Loza Updated Photo

ID #05-073 Miguel Ramirez Loza Updated Photo

Miguel Ramirez Loza, 43, is facing numerous charges including murder, sexual assault, sodomy, forced oral copulation and torture. He is being held in Santa Cruz County Jail without bail.

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell made the announcement of his arrest at a press conference Thursday.

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The extradition process was made more difficult by the fact that Loza is a Mexican citizen.

Still, it was the eighth time that a suspect has been brought back to Santa Cruz County from Mexico to face criminal charges, which Rosell said signals a new era of cooperation between the two countries.

“If you commit a crime and you run to Mexico and anyplace else, we will find you and we will bring you back to face the charges you deserve.

“Mexico is no longer the safe haven it once was in the old days,” Rosell added later.

Loza has been living in Mexico City and working as a day laborer, Rosell said.

He is accused of stabbing and raping Jessica Sheridan, who was his girlfriend, on Feb. 10, 2003. He also allegedly raped Sheridan’s friend. The trio was inside an abandoned preschool near Soquel Drive and Park Avenue.

Sheridan lingered in a coma until she died in a long-term care facility on Aug. 7 of that year.

Sheridan’s sister Serenity Sheridan, who attended the press conference, said that she was 13 at the time of the crime, and that both girls were in foster care.

“My sister had plans to take custody of me when she turned 18,” she said.

Sheridan called news of Loza’s arrest “bittersweet.”

“It opened up a lot of trauma for me, but I was definitely happy,” she said. “I will be able to sleep a lot better at night knowing that he is not able to hurt anyone else”

She said the call by an inspector that Loza was arrested came as a surprise so many years after the murder.

“I kind of thought that maybe because we were poor kids my sister was forgotten about,” Sheridan said. “Come to find out that all these people never forgot about her. They’ve been fighting.”

Rosell said he is confident in the strength of the case.

“The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office, in this case, is very confident that Mr. Loza will be brought to justice,” Rosell said. “And we are very confident that Mr. Loza will pay for what he did.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department is currently seeking Miguel Loza on a warrant charging him with the murder of 17-year-old Jessica Sheridan. Detective Henry Montes reports that in February 2003 Loza allegedly stabbed Jessica in a vacant pre-school near Cabrillo College. As Jessica lay bleeding to death, Loza then sexually assaulted another woman. Loza then urinated on Jessica. Loza fled to Mexico and was arrested by Mexican police in March 2004 for stabbing and robbing a man.

ID #05-073

In September 2004, Mexican police arrested him again for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. Loza did spend a month in jail for the stabbing and robbery and 5 months in jail for the kidnapping and rape of the little girl. The Mexican government refuses to extradite Loza and Santa Cruz deputies believe he may return to the U.S. Loza was raised in Santa Cruz County and may visit or stay with relatives in Watsonville.

Story from Santa Cruz Sentinel 8/9/03

After holding onto life for nearly six months, a Santa Cruz, California teen allegedly stabbed by her fugitive boyfriend has died.

Jessica Sheridan, 17, died at a Saratoga care facility, sheriff’s deputy Kim Allyn said. She had been in a vegetative state, when her boyfriend, Miguel Loza, allegedly stabbed her in the upper chest before raping her 17-year-old friend. The trio, and another man had been partying together at the former Sherwood Preschool near Soquel Drive and Park Avenue.

For three weeks after the attack, Sheridan remained on life support at Dominican Hospital, Allyn said, before being transferred to Saratoga. She died of complications from the attack.

Sheridan had run away from her foster home in Boulder Creek after meeting Loza at Capitola Mall about a month before the attack, according to friends. Her mother, Deborah Kennedy, is in County Jail on drug charges.

“We gave her notification yesterday, and she fell apart, as any parent would,” sheriff’s Lt. Steve Hartness said.

Friday, social workers were helping Kennedy make funeral arrangements. Sheridan was due to graduate from alternative school this past June and was an excellent student, said Michael Watkins, director of alternative education for the county Office of Education.

Her alleged killer, Loza, was the subject of an intense manhunt but escaped to Mexico.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, has joined the quest to bring Sheridan’s assailant from a Mexican jail to this country to face what are now first-degree murder charges as well as sodomy and oral copulation charges.

Detectives said they have confirmed via fingerprints and photographs that it is, in fact, Loza in jail in Mexico, where he was arrested for an alleged stabbing.

Prosecutors now face the daunting task of bringing him to the United States to face a possible life sentence. Mexican officials typically will not extradite accused defendants who would face the death penalty or life in prison, said Ariadne Symons, head of trial operations for District Attorney Bob Lee.

Symons said she believes the maximum sentence Mexican authorities impose is 30 years. But the District Attorney’s Office is not willing to drop a life sentence in exchange for Loza, as that also opens the door to Mexico unilaterally taking over the prosecution and meting out a much lighter sentence, she said.

“We simply won’t make a promise to Mexico that we won’t seek a significant sentence,” she said.

But encouragingly, Feinstein has contacted Lee’s office and has taken an interest in the case, Symons said.

Feinstein announced Wednesday she planned to ask Mexican President Vicente Fox for help to bring Loza and other wanted criminals to the United States, including Mexican citizens wanted in Southern California for the murders of a child and a deputy, as well as a priest charged with 19 counts of child molestation.

Under a 1980 treaty, neither country must deliver its citizens for prosecution if they face the death penalty, according to the senator’s Web site. Following an October 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Mexican authorities extended that to life in prison.

Maria Silva of Aptos said her daughter, Rina DiBattista, had been friends with Jessica — her friends called her Jesse — since the two were in fourth grade at Live Oak Elementary School. The two, along with Amber Jones of Santa Cruz, were inseparable, Silva said and went on to Shoreline Middle School and Star Community School, an alternative high school in Santa Cruz.

Silva said the other teen assaulted by Loza, whose name has not been released, is “still going through a hard time” and is in counseling.

“He ruined two girls’ lives,” Silva said. “There are a lot of angry parents and hurt young people who want to see him pay for his crimes.”

Silva and her daughter cried as they described Jesse as a fun-loving, outgoing girl who smiled often and loved to dance, play basketball and be with friends. She was always ready to help, they said.

“My daughter visited her every day and said she wanted to bring her home and take care of her, that’s how much she loved her,” Silva said. “We want her to be remembered as the beautiful soul she was.”

DiBattista laughed and cried Friday as she explained how Jesse loved her long strawberry blonde hair and would take so long fixing it that she would always be the last one out the door.

Sheridan moved several times after leaving Live Oak, going with her mother to Washington, then to her grandparents’ home in Colorado, then to live with DiBattista and her mother. She never talked about her father, DiBattista said.

“She had a hard life, but she had a great heart and could put a smile on anyone’s face.”

A former girlfriend of Loza, who wished to be identified only by her first name, Sarah, said she was angry Loza had been portrayed as an evil person.

Sarah was with Loza from age 13 to 18, she said and has his 3-month-old baby, Nethaneel Josiah, a name picked by Loza. She met him on the bus in Watsonville, she said.

He encouraged her to finish high school and was a sweet, fun person who was supportive of her, Sarah said. But she said Loza is bipolar and has a drinking problem.

“When he drinks, he’s not a good person,” she said. “But he asked for help and never got it. He was in jail for six months and never got a treatment program.”

Loza worked in construction, landscaping and other jobs, but Sarah asked him to leave her home in December because he couldn’t get a job. He was on probation for domestic violence against her, which hampered his ability to find work, she said.

“The next thing I hear is a call from police,” she said.

Loza was raised in King City, she said. He also spent time in Long Beach before moving to Santa Cruz, then Watsonville. He has a mother, stepfather, brother and two sisters in Watsonville and extended family in Mexico, she said

“He will live his life there,” she said. “I hope he has a good life. I’ll always love him, but I don’t think I’ll go to Mexico. I wanted his baby and I got his baby. Hopefully, he’ll get to meet him one day.”

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2 Comments

  • I hope that you are found and you never see daylight Miquel, not only did you kill 1 person (Jessica) but you killed 2, her Mom Debbie and you should pay for it for the rest of your life….

  • I know where you are Baby!! Its only days away!!
    You can run but you cant hide!!
    You’ll Have your dance card full soon.

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