A California man on Monday was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for two different rapes and murders, of a teenage girl and a young woman, in Los Angeles County in 2011.
Geovanni Borjas, 38, reportedly “appeared emotionless” as a judge read and sealed his fate in a downtown courtroom in the City of Angels, according to the CW’s West Coast flagship station KTLA.
In November of this year, cutting his murder trial short, the defendant pleaded no contest to two counts each of forcible rape and murder in the first degree, one count of kidnapping, and to special circumstance allegations of committing multiple murders and committing murder in the commission of a rape and a kidnapping. Under California law, special circumstances are sentencing enhancements that, if applied, must result in one of two outcomes: life in prison or the death penalty.
In late April 2011, 17-year-old Michelle Lozano went missing. One day later, her body was found covered in several plastic bags and stuffed inside a large plastic container, dumped near the side of the 5 Freeway in the historic Boyle Heights neighborhood. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office determined that Lozano had been strangled to death.
On the day after Christmas that same year, 22-year-old Bree’Anna Guzman left her Lincoln Heights home in the far eastern reaches of Los Angeles and went out for cough drops. She never came back. In late January 2012, Guzman’s partially clothed body was found dumped near the southbound Glendale Freeway, in the Silver Lake area. Coroners this time could only offer that the second woman suffered “unspecified neck trauma” due her body being so badly decomposed.
“He really is a monster and throughout the whole trial, court, he showed no remorse,” Rachel Duran, Guzman’s sister, told KTLA.
At first, law enforcement did not believe the two killings were related. But familial DNA testing later led police to believe the same suspect was likely responsible for both slayings.
“After the familial search, a person was identified as a contributory match to the suspect,” then-Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck said during a press conference after Borjas was arrested in May 2017. “That individual was (the) suspect’s father, who was arrested on a non-sexual-assault-type crime earlier in his life.”
But that’s not where the investigation stopped.
The defendant’s own DNA was not in any database, public or private, so, despite the genetic signs pointing in his direction, authorities still needed just a bit more to tie him directly to the slayings.
They got it in an unusual way.
Detectives with the LAPD followed their suspect around and waited. Then, one day, he spit on the sidewalk. That was enough. Investigators tested Borjas’ DNA directly against samples obtained from the bodies of Lozano and Guzman and found a match to both murders.
The defendant at first pleaded not guilty. His trial was serially delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty but that threat was removed after reform Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was elected in 2020, in part, on a pledge to end capital punishment.
Last year, Guzman’s mother, Darlene Duran, said the decision to take the death penalty off the table was a “slap in the face.”
“Both families have endured a tremendous and incalculable loss,” Gascón said in a statement after the defendant pleaded no contest earlier this year. “The pain for the victims’ families will never go away but I want to make sure they continue to receive the services they need as they move forward. Mr. Borjas finally took account for his heinous actions and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Now that Borjas has been sentenced, Duran said she can begin to try and move on.
“This is just a chapter that is going to close right now, and I can begin my grieving because I was on a mission,” Guzman’s mother told KTLA. “I was on a mission. I’m the mother who needed to know who hurt my daughter.”
[Images: Geovanni Borjas via screengrab/KTLA; Michelle Lozano and Bree’Anna Guzman via FBI]
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