Rape, murder suspect in court

Miguel Loza makes his first appearance in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Friday on charges that include murder and sexual assault. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Miguel Loza arrested in Mexico

SANTA CRUZ — Miguel Loza, the man suspected of raping two 17-year-old girls and killing one of them in 2003, made his first appearance in Santa Cruz County Superior Court June 7 after being extradited from Mexico, where he had been living.

Loza, 43, pleaded not guilty while accompanied by defense attorney Heather Rogers. He is being held in Santa Cruz County Jail without bail.

“Loza was advised of the charges against him,” said assistant District Attorney Celia Rowland. “The charges are murder. There are a number of different sexual assault offenses that relate to the second victim in the case who is a juvenile. And there are special circumstances that relate to the fact that it was a burglary where they were when the crimes took places as well as the sexual assault offenses.”

Rowland said Loza could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Loza has been living in Mexico City and working as a day laborer, District Attorney Jeff 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 on Soquel Drive north of Park Avenue.

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

“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.”

A preliminary hearing will take place on July 12 at 9 a.m.

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