Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Molina Criticizes Sheriff for Handling of Case of Missing Teenage Girl
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Supervisor Gloria Molina continued her criticism of the Sheriff’s Department yesterday, grilling sheriff’s officials over their handling of the disappearance this month of a 15-year-old East Los Angeles girl.
Brenda Sierra eventually was found in San Bernardino County, an apparent murder victim.
The girl’s family is “very dissatisfied with how they have been treated in this process,” Molina said.
It took deputies at least two hours from the time of the family’s 911 call to arrive at Brenda’s home to meet with her family. The family claimed it took more than twice that long.
“You mean somebody was called and they decided to go get a hot dog first?” Molina complained.
Molina appeared as unhappy about the sheriff’s inability to finish an internal probe for another two to three weeks as she was about the slow response time. Sheriff’s officials responded that since there was a possibility of discipline, they are required to follow state law procedures to guarantee the employees’ rights.
The teenager was reported missing on the evening of Friday, Oct. 18, after she failed to meet her ride to Schurr High School that morning. Her parents made a 911 call about 7:15 p.m., said Chief of Detectives Michael Soderberg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The girl’s body was found the following morning in a mountain community known as the Valley of Enchantment. The family was not immediately contacted, and sheriff’s deputies—unaware that the body had been found—did not immediately begin contacting the girl’s friends for information. Soderberg said it took until 7 p.m. Saturday for an investigator to get contact information for her friends from her family.
It took until the following Monday morning for San Bernardino County to identify Sierra’s remains.
Molina said the department should be more than “tag-along investigators” to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Responding to Molina’s criticism of the delay, Cmdr. Neil Tyler of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said, “In this case there was no immediate action,” which is true “in many situations of potential runaways.”
Molina said the Sheriff’s Department needs to do more to gain support in East Los Angeles.
“When families are asked to testify in court, they’re not going to do it,” Molina said.
Sheriff’s detectives have few clues as to what might have happened but know the teenager died of blunt force trauma.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the girl’s killer.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives have asked the public for help in finding Brenda’s blue backpack, textbooks or folders.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call detectives at the East Los Angeles station at (323) 264-4151, or San Bernardino County sheriff’s detectives at (909) 387-3589.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company