Rape, murder suspect captured in Mexico

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell talks Thursday about the extradition from Mexico of Miguel Loza, a suspect in a high-profile rape and murder case in 2003 in Soquel. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

Loza was living in Mexico City, working as day laborer

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.

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.

Loza mug 5-7 web

Loza

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 are 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.”

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