Vehicle Sought in Connection With Amber Alert Found Near Mexico Border

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Authorities searched today for a 15-year-old girl last seen in Torrance getting into a vehicle with her mother and her mother's ex-husband, both suspects in the killing of a man found Tuesday in the front seat of a car in Carson.

Alora Benitez was last seen at 9 a.m. Wednesday leaving with Maricela Mercado, 40, and Roman Cerratos, 39, in a white, 2013 BMW sedan that was recovered unoccupied Friday by police in San Diego, in the area of San Ysidro, a major border crossing.

A relative of Benitez who did not wish to be identified told NBC4 on Thursday he thought the trio was headed to Mexico.

“The fear is that they have already crossed the border or plan on crossing the border and are trying to hide out in Mexico somewhere,” the relative said.

An Amber Alert was in effect for Benitez.

The teen and her mother lived in an apartment in Redondo Beach, where the woman was seen Wednesday moving items from the residence. A family car remained parked at the location.

The teen is Hispanic, 5 feet 2 and weighs 100 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Mercado is Hispanic, 5 feet 3 and 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Cerratos is Hispanic, 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds, bald with brown eyes.

They are suspects in the killing of a man found dead Tuesday in the front seat of a white Audi parked in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive.

The body of Jeffrey Appel, 32, was found by deputies about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive, according to the sheriff's department.

The death had preliminarily been classified as a stabbing, but the sheriff's department later reported it was unknown whether the man had been stabbed. An autopsy was pending and the motive for his slaying was not known.

Anyone who spots the girl, her mother or Cerratos was urged to call 911 immediately, according to the sheriff's department, which said the adults should be considered armed and dangerous.

Anyone with information on the suspects' whereabouts was asked to call sheriff's homicide Detectives Lawler or Blagg at 323-890-5500 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

The Amber Alert was initially issued Wednesday, later canceled on grounds that the girl may not really have been in danger, then reissued Thursday.

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