Aurangzeb “Simon” Manjra took a plea offer in exchange for pleading guilty to the first-degree murder of Glendale resident Esperanza Torio, and the second-degree murder of 44-year-old Los Angeles resident Maria Santos, according to Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
“We are very pleased to bring justice and closure to the families after so many years,” said Prosecutor Habib Balian with the district attorney’s Major Crimes Unit.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped a special-circumstance enhancement for which he could have been sentenced for life without parole, Robison said.
Manjra faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, she added.
Manjra was arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of killing the women who he reportedly dated before they went missing, Glendale police said. While some of Torio’s remains were found in Mexico, Santos' body has not been recovered.
Torio's sister reported her missing on Aug. 16, 1996, when she failed to return to their Chestnut Street home in Glendale, police said.
As a single mother, Torio, 39, raised two teenage boys and had recently landed a new full-time job. She was preparing to move into a new apartment in Glendale, but suddenly disappeared.
Police detectives investigated her disappearance, but there were few leads.
Manjra, who was a salesman, was a suspect, but 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. Her head and feet were missing.
During a preliminary hearing in 2011, a Mexican officer testified that the cuts appeared to be have been made recently when the remains were found. However, Mexican authorities didn’t know Torio was reported missing, so they didn’t make a connection in 1996.
Nearly a month later, a road worker found a black plastic bag containing a head with long black hair buried in some sand dunes, not far from where the body parts were found.
The following year in 1997, a Modesto police officer traveled to Mexico to get DNA samples from the body parts because she was investigating another missing person’s case in her area and was trying determine whether it was the person she was seeking.
But the DNA evidence didn’t match in her case. Still, the evidence 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 case.
They took DNA samples from her family members and discovered that the samples matched the body parts found in Mexico.
Detectives began investigating Manjra again and discovered that he also dated Santos in 2004 — the same year she was reported missing to the Los Angeles police.
Manjra is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29 for the women’s deaths.