SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The undocumented murder suspect accused of brutally stabbing Bambi Larson to death in her San Jose home late last month made his first court appearance Thursday.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office charged 24-year-old Carlos Eduardo Arevalo Carranza with first degree murder and two special circumstances of burglary and mayhem.
Police responded to the 900 block of Knollfield Way on the afternoon of February 28th when Larson’s coworkers reported her missing to her son, Officers found her dead with at least one stab wound.
The case was initially ruled as a “suspicious death” by police. The Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office later determined she died of sharp-force injuries to the throat and neck.
During Thursday’s brief court appearance flanked by his court-appointed lawyer and an interpreter, Arevalo Carranza did not enter a plea.
A plea hearing was scheduled for May 17. Arevalo Carranza remains in-custody without bond.
“Our office will hold him fully accountable for this murder so that he can die in prison,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky outside the courtroom.
Prosecutors released a statement of facts for the case, saying the suspect who appeared in several neighbors’ video surveillance is Arevalo Carranza.
He is seen walking up to Larson’s home at about 4:30 a.m. in the morning on the day of the killing, February 28th.
The statement said Larson was found dead of stab wounds in her bedroom. When officers arrested the suspect, he had the victim’s Kindle tablet and her cell phone, plus a 7-inch knife believed to be the murder weapon on his person.
The statement also said that Arevalo Carranza’s boots matched bloody shoe prints located inside Larson’s home.
“The defendant is charged with one count of first degree murder, and two special circumstances of burglary and mayhem which make him eligible for life without the possibility of parole and the death penalty,” said Deputy District Attorney Louis Ramos.
Prosecutors are still deciding if this will be a capital case, but they said Governor Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty in California would have no bearing on their decision.
On Wednesday, Santa Clara County pushed back on local officials who claimed the county’s policies allowed an undocumented murder suspect to be repeatedly released from jail without any call to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite an active detainer request by ICE.
San Jose police announced Tuesday that Arevalo Carranza was an undocumented immigrant and admitted gang member who had been arrested numerous times.
On Monday, police announced they had arrested Arevalo Carranza, who is believed to be homeless, and booked him into Santa Clara County jail on suspicion of murder.
The case brought forth outcry from Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who said the county’s refusal to honor detainer requests and notifications allowed Arevalo Carranza to be released from county jail without notifying federal authorities.
During a news conference Wednesday, Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said the county is acting on state law, which has deemed it a violation of due process to detain inmates in jail for an extended time due to an ICE request.
He said there may be room for deputies to notify ICE of an inmate who has been placed under a detainer request, instead of keeping them in jail until federal agents arrive, but the county does not currently allow law enforcement to provide information to federal authorities.
Though Liccardo, Garcia and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen have pointed to notifications as a legal and “common-sense” approach to handle suspects like Arevalo Carranza, Williams drew attention away from the county’s culpability and pointed to ICE’s failings.
“The one agency that doesn’t seem to want to use warrants is ICE,” Williams said, describing ICE as wanting to circumvent the judicial review process.
He did not say whether the county will be pushed to change its policy on notifying federal authorities in the aftermath of Larson’s death.
Police first made contact with Arevalo Carranza Monday at Foxworthy and Pearl avenues to arrest him for alleged methamphetamine possession. He was then cited and released.
Meanwhile, an ongoing investigation returned DNA evidence from multiple locations around Larson’s home, including a “bloody trail” of footprints left behind by the suspect, Garcia said.
Arevalo Carranza’s DNA taken during the initial arrest matched the samples, and police once again located and arrested him on suspicion of murder.
On the day Larson was killed in her home, surveillance footage showed Arevalo Carranza “stalking” the area and later on leaving the residence after the killing, Garcia said. Police have not yet been able to find a connection between Larson and the suspect.
An ongoing investigation revealed Arevalo Carranza had allegedly been detained by Homeland Security Investigations in McAllen, Texas in 2013 and deported, but he returned to the United States and was arrested numerous times on suspicion of offenses including burglary, battery, false imprisonment, possession of methamphetamine and prowling.
Arevalo Carranza was arrested and released in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties six times, and was most recently arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine and paraphernalia in January.
President Donald Trump has drawn attention to a handful of high-profile slayings by undocumented immigrants to vehemently criticize sanctuary city policies, but Garcia was quick to point out Tuesday that Larson’s murder by a stranger was a rare occurrence and San Jose police will not take actions that cause immigrants to fear police.
He said, however, that her murder demands police and the county have a conversation over its refusal to honor ICE detainer requests for violent criminals.
San Jose police do not request immigration status when making an arrest or report or arrest undocumented immigrants living in the city, but Garcia said ignoring detainers and releasing inmates from custody who have committed serious crimes undermines the city’s safety.
“This isn’t about politics, this is about public safety,” Garcia said, adding that documented and undocumented immigrants should have no reason to fear police in the city. “He could have been turned over six times.”
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called Larson’s death a “devastating tragedy” and doubled down on Garcia’s statements, calling for a change in the county’s policy that would benefit all residents, especially immigrants who are most often targeted by felons who should be deported.
Sheriff Laurie Smith released a statement following the news conference siding with the city’s position.
“This is a senseless act, and very well may have been preventable,” Smith said. “Carlos Arevalo-Carranza is a violent predator who should have remained in custody until officials with ICE had the appropriate time to evaluate his immigration status.”
She said she has long stood by a system of honoring ICE holds, and would advocate to change this county policy.
“We will go to the end of the Earth to catch a predator like this,” Garcia said, emphasizing that at the heart of the issue is a mother and coworker who was senselessly killed.
Larson attended San Jose State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, and was a manager at medical testing company Roche Sequencing Solutions in San Jose.
“We are saddened by the sudden passing of our colleague and friend,” company officials said in a statement last week. “Given the nature of the ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further, out of respect for the family as well.”
District 9 Councilwoman Pam Foley, whose district includes the neighborhood where Larson was killed, said she was “deeply saddened” by Larson’s death. She also commented on a murder-suicide involving a mother and her two children last Wednesday.
“I extend my sincerest sympathies to each family,” Foley said in a statement.
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