$80,000 reward leads to father, son accused in 3 Los Angeles cold case murders

LOS ANGELES — A SWAT team last week descended on a home in East Los Angeles and arrested a father and son suspected of three separate cold case homicides dating back to 2014.

Anthony Velasquez, 31, and his father, 51-year-old Manuel Velasquez, were booked Thursday into the Los Angeles County Jail. According to ABC 7, the younger man is being held on suspicion of murder.

The older Velasquez is accused of being an accessory to the crimes, which all occurred within a couple of miles of one another in East Los Angeles.

See footage from Thursday’s arrests below.

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The arrests come just over a month after Los Angeles County homicide detectives announced an $80,000 reward for information in the deaths of Jesus Avalos, 33, Eduardo Robles, 38, and Amanda “Nikki” Lopez, 27, who were killed in 2014, 2015 and 2018, respectively. The reward was sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis.

Lopez, who was homeless, was slain as she slept in a tent outside Solis’ office at the East Los Angeles Courthouse. The shooting was caught on grainy surveillance video.

“The lives of Jesus ‘Jesse’ Avalos, Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Robles and Amanda Nicole Lopez were unjustly and senselessly taken by gun violence in East Los Angeles,” Solis said in a statement last month. “While the county continues to make investments in community prevention strategies to address community trauma and violence, we are also counting on residents to help us bring accountability to the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.”

Detectives also released composite sketches of both suspects last month. Footage from the scene of the Velasquez arrests shows the men bear a strong resemblance to the drawings.

ABC 7 reported that homicide detectives allege Anthony Valasquez knew each of the victims in some manner. Lt. Hugo Reynaga told the station more charges were possible.

“I don’t know at this point, but we may be able to tie these two to other local murders, also cold cases,” Reynaga said Thursday.

The homicides

Sheriff’s Department officials said that Avalos received a phone call around 10:50 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2014, from an acquaintance asking for help jump-starting his vehicle, which was near the intersection of Telegraph Road and Arizona Avenue in East Los Angeles. Avalos arrived 15 minutes later to help.

A passerby called 911 around 3:25 a.m. the next morning to report an injured man in the 4800 block of Telegraph Road. Deputies found Avalos in the driver’s seat of his blue SUV, dead of multiple gunshot wounds.

The hood of his vehicle was still raised from the jump-start.

According to authorities, two suspects had been seen around the SUV.

On July 6, 2015, Robles got into a fight in the driveway of an apartment building in the 4300 block of Eagle Street. More than a dozen people were on hand during the fight, detectives said.

After the fight, the suspect jumped a fence and slashed the tires of Robles’ vehicle. He was not done with Robles, however.

“It was a cold-blooded killing. Eddie was just standing there,” homicide Detective Ray Lugo said, according to ABC 7. “The suspect jumped over and punctured the victim’s tires to his SUV. He left for approximately five minutes and returned and walked up to the victim as if nothing had occurred and shot him numerous times in front of 15 to 20 witnesses.”

The shooter was picked up by a Hispanic man in a light green vehicle, witnesses said.

On April 22, 2018, Lopez was asleep in a homeless encampment situated in the courtyard in front of the courthouse, the police statement said. Surveillance video shows a man get out of the passenger side of a silver PT Cruiser and start searching for Lopez in the encampment.

The man, who wore a ski mask, found Lopez, stuck a shotgun into her tent and fired. Lopez died of a blast to the chest and left arm, according to the county medical examiner-coroner.

The shooter ran back to the PT Cruiser and jumped inside, where he took off his ski mask.

“This was where witnesses were able to get a good look at both suspects,” Homicide Bureau Capt. Joe Mendoza said during last month’s news conference.

Lopez’s mother told ABC 7 that her daughter was sleeping at the encampment because she was having trouble with family members.

“You know, I never thought that I would ever lose a child,” Rozelle Lopez told the news station. “It’s the worst feeling in the world. It’s something that no parent should have to experience.”

Mendoza said last month that detectives on each case started to connect the slayings by comparing notes and realizing that witnesses at each scene described similar suspects in the shootings.

They then compared the ballistic evidence from Avalos’ killing to that in the Robles homicide. The same handgun was used in both crimes.

Watch last month’s news conference below.

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Witness descriptions of the suspects, along with surveillance footage, allegedly helped investigators link those two crimes to the shotgun slaying of Lopez.

Avalos’ sisters described him as a giving, trusting man.

“He was a big kid,” Maria Orozco told ABC 7. “He was a people person. He liked people and he was everybody’s friend.”

“He would empty out the fridge feeding his friends, because that’s just how he was,” Bertha Avalos said.

Both sisters attended last month’s news conference, where they pleaded with the public for information on their brother’s murder.

“I think I speak for my family, as well as the other two families, that we don’t have closure. We don’t have justice,” Orozco said. “I’m sure all of these families are still suffering. Please help us.”

“Our brother is truly missed by our family, by his children,” Bertha Avalos said. “I know that is not gonna bring him back, but it will bring us some sort of closure.”

Rozelle Lopez told ABC 7 there’s a hole in her heart since her daughter’s killing. The grieving mother wants to know why Nikki Lopez was killed.

“I want to know what she could’ve done that was so wrong he felt that he needed to be judge, jury and executioner,” Lopez said.

Reynaga described Thursday’s arrests as “a big milestone” in the three cold cases.

“We’re just happy to provide the families of these three victims some kind of assurance that justice is going to be served,” the detective told the news station.

Orozco said the family was stunned to finally get the call they’d been waiting for.

“It meant relief, and I thought of my brother, that he’s somewhere in heaven right now celebrating and that he’s happy that justice was made and that they will not hurt anyone anymore,” she said.

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