About an hour and a half after 22-year-old Bree’ana Guzman left her home on the 2300 block of Humboldt Street in Lincoln Heights to buy some cough drops at the local drug store, her family began to suspect something was wrong.
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The young mother of five-year-old Janelle and 16-month-old Jade did not come home that night. The following morning, just two days after Christmas, Bree’ana’s mother, Darlene Duran, went to the Los Angeles Police Department De Leon Hollenbeck Station to ask for help. While LAPD officers were initially hesitant to take a missing persons report on an adult who could very well have left of her own free will, Duran said they nonetheless filed a report.
So began the family and friends’ search to find Bree’ana.
Four candle light vigils and posters with Bree’ana’s face plastered across Lincoln Heights and surrounding communities would reveal few clues.
Their search ended tragically Jan. 26, when the partially clothed body of a woman was found in the brush near the Riverside Drive on-ramp to the Glendale (2) Freeway.
While police and the coroner’s office did not immediately confirm that the body found was in fact Guzman, her family had no doubt it was her.
“I identified her by her physical attribute, her braces, lower lip piercing, and the matching tattoos she and I share,” Duran told EGP on Tuesday.
Duran has tentatively scheduled her daughter’s funeral for next week, but that could change if her body is not released in time.
The dead woman was not fully clothed, and it appeared she had been dumped at the location some time ago, according to police.
As of Wednesday, the woman’s cause of death had yet to be released. Coroner’s Assistant Chief of Investigation Ed Winter Winter told EGP last week he couldn’t say when that determination would be made.
Duran described her daughter as a caring person with lots of friends.
“She had just a charisma, an attitude and spirit to keep people excited about life, and she encouraged them not to worry… that everything would be okay,” the grieving mother said.
Guzman loved to hangout with her little girls, and her siblings, and was not a party girl, Duran said.
“It’s heart wrenching. I’d open her bedroom door every morning to look at her, cover her if she wasn’t covered … Our whole family is devastated,” she said.
Duran said she hopes her daughter’s death was not a random crime, so her murderer can be quickly identified and brought to justice, but added she’s not sure what direction the case will take especially in light of rumors of other attempted abductions and news reports questioning if the killing of 17-year-old Michelle Lozano and Guzman are somehow connected.
Responding to growing fears that a serial killer might be on the loose, the LAPD on Tuesday issued an alert saying they do not believe the two murders are connected. On Wednesday, they called the murders “distinct.”
Detectives from the Robbery-Homicide Division said “the Lincoln Heights community has expressed great concern about several males in a white van kidnapping young women from the street and strongly believe this white van is related to the two murders.”
Detectives “have investigated numerous leads involving this vehicle, all of which have not been corroborated,” according to City News Service.
Lozano’s nude body was found April of 2011 in the brush near the interchange of the 5 and 10 Freeways off-ramp. Lozano, also a resident of Lincoln Heights, had been reported as missing. Asphyxia by strangulation was determined to be the cause of death.
Connection or not, the recent murders of Guzman and Lozano have the community on edge.
But police say no such alleged crimes have been reported to the LAPD.
They also say that a sketched composite of an alleged suspect being circulated via social media sites did not come from them.
“We don’t know where information is coming from … We don’t know who is posting that stuff [on the internet]… we don’t know where that composite sketch came from,” Lt. Zamora told EGP, adding that it’s “not a wise thing” to create panic in the community.
Yesterday, Los Angeles Councilmember Ed Reyes announced two $50,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who killed Bree’ana Guzman and Michelle Lozano.
“These are distinct cases,” said Reyes, who on Tuesday introduced the emergency motions requesting the reward money. “There’s no evidence to describe it any other way than distinct cases. But I do appeal to the community to give us any information they might have regarding both of these incidents.”
Police ask that anyone with information on either murder call 877-LAPD-247.
Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.
A fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank for donations to help pay for Bree’ana’s funeral expenses, and to help support her two young daughters. Donations can be deposited at any Wells Fargo branch, using account #1840755076