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Woman pleads not guilty to teen’s 2002 murder

EAST LOS ANGELES — A woman pleaded not guilty March 3 in the October 2002 kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old girl who was abducted on her way to school in Montebello and found dead a day later.

Rosemary Chavira, 27, of Lancaster, is charged with murder in connection with Brenda Sierra’s killing, which detectives have linked to an East Los Angeles gang.

The teenager disappeared on Oct. 18, 2002, while walking from her home to a friend’s home in the East Los Angeles area to catch a ride with a friend to Schurr High School.

The high school sophomore’s body was discovered the next day in San Bernardino County. She had died of blunt-force trauma to the head, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations that Sierra was murdered during the commission of a kidnapping and a rape, along with an allegation that the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Chavira cannot face the death penalty because she was 15 when Sierra was kidnapped and killed, according to the District Attorney’s Office. She could face a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Chavira was arrested Feb. 27 by Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators and has remained in jail since then without bail. She is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom April 1, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require her to stand trial.

“We firmly believe a street gang in East Los Angeles is responsible for her kidnapping and murder,” Detective Larry Brandenburg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said in June 2009 when sheriff’s detectives sought the public’s help in finding clues to the teen’s killing.

He noted that “in no way was she affiliated with any gang.”

In November 2009, CNN reported that

Rosemary Chavira
Rosemary Chavira

said, “We believe that Brenda was killed as retaliation by gang members in the neighborhood responsible for a shooting that Brenda’s brother and mother witnessed a few weeks earlier.”

Sheriff’s officials said this week they anticipate charges will be filed against at least three other suspects in connection with the killing over the next month.