Murder Case Goes to Court

Murder Case Goes to Court

Mauricio Cerritos to face court proceedings in murder case.

Mauricio Cerritos, 23, is scheduled to appear in Loudoun County General District Court next week, on Feb. 26.

Loudoun investigators arrested Cerritos, of Herndon, on Thursday, Jan. 15, and charged him with the first-degree murder of Margarita Gonzalez, 40, also of Herndon.

Cerritos is currently being held without bond at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center.

Gonzalez, 40, immigrated to the United States from El Salvador a decade ago and had been working to change her immigration status. Before her murder, she had learned that her brother in El Salvador was a donor match for the kidney transplant she needed. Her brother planned to travel to the United States to donate his kidney to her. Instead, Gonzalez' body was flown back to El Salvador for burial.

GONZALEZ HAD BEEN receiving dialysis treatment three times a week. When she failed to show up for an appointment the day after Christmas, her family reported her missing to the Herndon Police, initiating a missing person's search which included putting Gonzalez' information on a national data base as well as contacting neighbors, hospitals and jails.

That same morning, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office was trying to identify a woman's body, which had been found at a private parking lot in the 22000 block of Shaw Road.

She was found "in a kneeling position," against a jersey barrier, according to Fairfax Circuit Court documents. "A rope had been tied around the victim's neck with opposing end of the rope … attached to a utility trailer parked on the south side of the jersey barrier."

Loudoun investigators matched the description of Gonzalez to the body they had found and Herndon's missing person's report became a murder investigation.

ROBBERY IS a motive. "It was further learned that the victim carried approximately $1,500 in cash," according to the court documents.

Gonzalez' sister, a Herndon resident, told police that Gonzalez supported herself by selling jewelry she bought in Washington D.C. "She, [Gonzalez' sister] said that sometimes she has trouble collecting the money," according to the documents. "[She] said that the victim's roommate had told her that the victim had gone out with an unknown person to Sterling to collect money and that she did not return home."

Gonzalez' sister last saw Gonzalez on Dec. 25, 2003 when she drove her to Reston to conduct some business, according to court documents.

Gonzalez' nephew said he heard Gonzalez on the phone with an unknown person, asking if she could get a ride. According to the search warrants, Gonzalez' nephew believed she left with more than $2,000 worth of jewelry in her purse.

"IT WAS THE LAST TIME she was seen alive," according to court documents. "A search of the scene in Loudoun County did not reveal any of these items belonging to the victim."

Gonzalez was found with the pockets of her pants turned inside out.

Crime Solvers received a tip on Jan. 2, 2004, indicating that a person — later identified as Cerritos' girlfriend — obtained jewelry from him and that the jewelry had been pawned at a pawnshop in Herndon or Fairfax.

Investigators went to the Herndon Pawnshop on Jan. 3, 2004 and learned that Cerritos' girlfriend received $125 for the sale of 12 pieces of jewelry gold in color approximately 24 hours after the discovery of Gonzalez' body.

The jewelry was seized and photographed, and the manager of the store where Gonzalez often bought jewelry identified the merchandise as the type she sold to Gonzalez.

The investigation is still continuing, said Kraig Troxell, the public information officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.

No additional arrests have been made.

<1b>— Jennifer Lesinksi contributed to the story.