Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, who had previously viewed photographs of Esperanza Torio’s dismembered body, called convicted killer Aurangzeb “Simon” Manjra’s case “absolutely sickening” before sentencing him.
“You have a lot to think about,” he told Manjra.
Manjra accepted a deal in December to drop a special-circumstance charge in exchange for his guilty plea to the first-degree murder of Torio and the second-degree murder of 44-year-old Los Angeles resident Maria Santos.
The cause of Torio’s death has never been determined because of the condition of her body, said prosecutor Habib Balian with the district attorney’s Major Crimes Unit.
And while Torio’s remains were found, Santos is still missing.
Manjra’s actions forced Santos’ children to “grow up without their mother,” said Balian, who spoke on behalf of her family in the Philippines.
Torio’s family was never able to give her a proper funeral because her remains are still in Mexico, her sister Edna Magpayo said.
Torio, 39, was a single mother who raised two teenage boys and had recently landed a new full-time job.
“You took away my sister, my nephews’ mother, a cousin and a daughter,” Magpayo told Manjra during sentencing.
Magpayo had asked Manjra to look at her as she spoke, but he declined.
She told him that while she and her family may look like they moved on, “there’s a space in our hearts that will never be filled.”
Torio was reported missing on Aug. 16, 1996, after she didn’t return home.
Manjra, who was a salesman, dated Torio and was a suspect in her disappearance. At the time, though, investigators were unable to immediately link him to her disappearance.
But two days after Torio was reported missing, Mexican authorities found her remains in three black trash bags in Rosarito. Nearly a month later, a road worker found her head not far from her other remains.
Still, the case went unsolved because Mexican authorities didn’t know Torio was reported missing.
It wasn’t until a Modesto police officer launched an investigation in 1997 into another missing person’s case in her area that the remains were investigated by U.S. law enforcement.
She traveled to Mexico to get DNA samples from the body parts because she was trying to determine whether it was connected to the person she was seeking.
While the DNA evidence didn’t match in her case, it was stored in a law-enforcement database and remained there for years.
Then, in 2009, Glendale detectives were investigating cold cases and reopened Torio’s disappearance.
Her family members submitted DNA samples, which matched the body parts found in Mexico.
Detectives renewed their investigation into Manjra and discovered that he also dated Santos in 2004 — the same year she was reported missing to the Los Angeles police.
He was arrested in May 2010 for the deaths of Santos and Torio.
“I think justice was served today,” Glendale Police Det. Petros Kmbikyan said Wednesday.