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Feb. 15, 2022

Justice for Erica Alonso

Justice for Erica Alonso

On February 14th, 2015 — Valentine’s Day — and the last night that Erica would be seen alive. She and her on-again, off-again boyfriend left for a popular nightclub in Costa Mesa: Sutra Lounge. By the next morning, she had vanished. Her abandoned Honda Civic would be found two miles from her home, covered in dust, 2 parking tickets, and her purse left inside. Her body would only be found two months later, discarded in the Cleveland National Forest.

This case is very special. It's special because I have been in contact with Erica’s family to work on this episode and they need our help. Please listen and share this episode so we can shed some light on who Erica Alonso was and why this case can and should be solved. 

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Anyone with information concerning the death of Erica Alonso is asked to call Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Unit at (714) 647–7055 or (714) 647–7000. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855–847–6227) or at occrimestoppers.org.

 

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.

 



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Transcript

Hello and welcome to the eastern crime zone, a show about investigations of real true crime cases. 
 
I'm your host, Cassie Malay, and every week I’ll take you through new details about cases you're familiar with and completely new cases you've never heard of before.

If there's a case you're interested in learning more about, please head over to my website, easterncrimezone.com, and leave me a voicemail or send me a DM on instagram @easterncrimezone.

Coming up in today’s episode:

On February 14th, 2015 — Valentine’s Day — and the last night that Erica would be seen alive. She and her on-again, off-again boyfriend left for a popular nightclub in Costa Mesa: Sutra Lounge. By the next morning, she had vanished. Her abandoned Honda Civic would be found two miles from her home, covered in dust, 2 parking tickets, and her purse left inside. Her body would only be found two months later, discarded in the Cleveland National Forest.
This case is very special. It's special because I have been in contact with Erica’s family to work on this episode and they need our help. Please listen and share this episode so we can shed some light on who Erica Alonso was and why this case can and should be solved. 


Grab your notepad, get settled in, and let's dive into another “Cassie File”..

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Erica Alonso was a vivacious woman who loved to have fun. She was the middle child in a family of 5 girls, and she loved to be Aunt Erica. Erica was especially close to her youngest niece.  She loved kids and dreamed of finishing school and having her own family. From her instagram, Erica was an animal lover. She loved cats and dogs alike. I think she may have liked animals almost as much as I do.
 
She had so many plans for her life, and had even written all the things she wanted to do and accomplish. Unfortunately, Erica’s life would be cut short before she could accomplish those dreams. 
 
On February 14th, 2015 — Valentine’s Day — and the last night Erica would be seen alive. She and her on-again, off-again boyfriend left for a popular nightclub in Costa Mesa: Sutra Lounge. This ex was then 45-year-old Larry Rivera, who purportedly shared a rocky relationship with Erica for around two years. He would be the last person to see her alive. 
 
Larry had allegedly been abusive to Erica on more than one occasion. On one particularly awful occasion, Larry almost broke Erica’s jaw. At the time, Erica didn't want to go to authorities because Larry had a daughter from a previous relationship.
 
Unfortunately, before her disappearance, Erica was arrested for domestic violence. On this occasion, when police were called, Larry had a scratch on him and identified Erica as the aggressor. These charges were dropped less than a week before Erica was last seen alive.
 
Obviously, men can be abused too. This relationship could have been toxic on both sides. I wasn't there. But I speculate that maybe these were defensive wounds left on Larry when Erica defended herself? Or even an unrelated scratch? 
 
On odd occasions, police officers are unable to correctly identify the dominant aggressor. In one prevalent form of this issue, the officer fails to recognize defensive wounds and, therefore, arrests women who defend themselves, particularly those who effectively defend themselves. In yet another set of cases, there are indications that domestic violence perpetrators have become more skilled in their use of the law against women, such as calling 911 oneself or intentionally harming themselves before the police arrive. To be sure, there are instances where a woman's arrest for domestic violence is justified. However, research across the country show that a high proportion of female arrests are due to domestic violence victims being mistakenly arrested.
 
Apparently Larry and Erica decided to try working on a friendship.  She was a very positive person. She was too trusting and always willing to give people another chance. They had met earlier that day for a lunch date. This lunch date wasn’t supposed to extend into the night. Erica had planned a night with her sisters at home to watch “cheesy movies” together. 
 
Her family only knew she was out when they checked her Snapchat story and saw her enjoying the night at the club.
 
After befriending another couple at Sutra Lounge that offered them a ride, Erica and Larry left the club at around 1:30am and continued the night at Larry's home in Irvine. This couple has never been named publicly, so I can't tell you much about them except this was a heterosexual couple, and Erica is seen on security footage holding hands with the woman. 
 
The couple claims they were at this residence with Erica and Larry, and at some point, Erica and Larry argued. This must've been a bit awkward for the couple, so they decided to leave around 3:45am. Not long after (about 4am), Larry claims she left in her Honda Civic, and he hadn’t seen or heard from her since.
 
Here's a quote from Erica's eldest sister, Dinora, about that time:
 
"When I learned my sister went missing and who the last person that she had been with I KNEW something had happened. I went home and cried and cried I felt such pain I felt I was gonna die from thinking she had died."
 
Time passed, and there was no activity on Erica’s credit cards. Her bank account was untouched. No calls were made from her cell phone. 
 
The family started sharing Erica’s story immediately. They hung countless fliers. One of her friends started the FB page "JUSTICE FOR ERICA ALONSO", originally titled "Help Find Erica".
 
Her family held candlelight vigils at community centers, praying and singing and looking into the night for answers. Offering a $5,000 reward for information on her whereabouts, her family urged anyone who knew something, anything, to come forward.
 
the next bit of news would come in the next month. Deputies responded to a call on Wednesday, March 25th, that a car was sitting unmoved for weeks. Near Cedarbrook and Redwood, in the quiet neighborhood of Glenwood Park, Erica’s 2014 Honda Civic was sitting untouched, just under two miles away from her home where she lived with her parents.
A resident noticed the accumulated dust on the outside of the car, as well as two parking tickets left since it was parked. They peered through the window, and had an uneasy feeling when they spotted a stuffed animal and a purse inside.
The following day, Erica’s family waited for sunset to release dozens of red balloons into the air — her favorite color — to celebrate her birthday. Her car was found, but there were still no signs of Erica. At this time, there was still hope they would bring her home alive.
She would have been 28 years old.
 
The Ortega Highway runs through the Cleveland National Forest, and lies about 30 miles from Irvine, where Erica was last seen alive.  Late in the evening, on April 27th, 2015, a group of biologists from Cal-Trans were working in the forest when they stumbled upon a decomposing body in the middle of a dry creek bed. Around 10pm, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) responded and set up a crime scene area in the remote embankment off the highway. The footpath to where her body lay was 
The body was transported to the coroner’s office around 11am. Evidence from the scene was collected, but the OCSD couldn’t confirm a cause of death until an autopsy was officially completed.
Erica had finally been found.
 
Her autopsy gave answers to questions that Erica’s disappearance hadn’t yet raised, and left her family bewildered. Although friends and family were convinced she was murdered, there were no ‘obvious’ signs of trauma to her body.
According to some information on the Justice for Erica Facebook page, Erica’s body was wrapped in plastic and well preserved at the time she was found. 
Erica Alonso was laid to rest on May 8, 2015, surrounded by hundreds of relatives and friends. Despite Erica finally being at home, her family's fight for justice was far from over. It was only the beginning.
 
When the toxicology report was ultimately released on July 22nd, the OCSD indicated Erica died of a deadly combination of alcohol and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) – an overdose rather than homicide.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, GHB, often known as a "club drug" or "date rape drug," is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless drug with the "potential to sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting victims."
 
GHB's sedative effects may cause sleep, coma, or death at excessive doses.
 
Erica's family was taken aback because she had never used heavy drugs and was wary of vices, only using them "lightly," according to her father.
 
According to the coroner, this, along with changing levels of GHB in her system, caused Erica's death.
The presence of GHB, sometimes known as the "date-rape drug," prompted detectives to search her body for evidence of sexual assault, but they were unable to uncover any. The official cause of death was amended from "undetermined" to "overdose."
Erica would become more inebriated as the night progressed if she had GHB in her bloodstream. She would have been more likely to collapse or get into an accident because of her sluggish central nervous system. Controlling her actions, making decisions, and regulating her mood would have been difficult for her.  As she overdosed on both substances, her body temperature would continue to lower, she may vomit or have seizures, may have lost consciousness or become confused, and eventually this would result in her death. 
 
Erica was with her date and another couple at Sutra Lounge, according to surveillance camera evidence, and the same witnesses drove Erica home. They were by her side for the last few hours of her life. When the family contacted the woman of the couple who was last with Erica, she was nasty and uninterested in assisting the family with their inquiries. Of course, this couple has been cleared of any crimes, but I believe they still have some unanswered questions.
 
Erica would not have been able to drive herself from Larry's house to the location where her car was discovered with GHB and her.22 blood alcohol level. Especially without causing any damage to the car. How would she have then gotten miles away to a rugged area, wrapped herself in plastic and die? Make it make sense.
 
I personally believe that Larry had purposefully drugged Erica without her knowledge. This may have been witnessed by or assisted by the couple that accompanied them home that night. There are just too many inconsistencies to believe this was an accident.
 
Her family's Facebook page has become a venue for publicizing missing people's stories from all over California and the United States, not just keeping her memory alive and the case fresh in the thoughts of the hundreds who read their messages. The page shares the stories of missing men, women, and children with their followers by sharing videos, photos, and crucial information regarding missing people.
 
She was a woman with her entire life ahead of her, and it was snatched away from her. It was taken by negligence, whether it was done on purpose or not. There is a witness who knows what happened that night, but has yet to come forward with their information.
 
The best option for Erica’s case going forward is to share this case with as mant people as possible and try to get bigger media outlets to pick the story up. There has been no progress in this case for years. Putting media pressure on police and on the people she was with that night, may lead to answers and hopefully justice for Erica.

Anyone with information concerning the death of Erica Alonso is asked to call Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Unit at (714) 647–7055 or (714) 647–7000. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855–847–6227) or at occrimestoppers.org.

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.