America’s Most Wanted show considering airing Torres case |

America’s Most Wanted show considering airing Torres case

Gregory Crofton

A national television show, “America’s Most Wanted,” and a Latin American news network questioned police this week about the death of an 11-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl.

In March, Claudia Torres snorted a fatal amount of cocaine allegedly provided by Jose Rodriguez-Perez, a 23-year-old from South Lake Tahoe. The district attorney’s office has issued a warrant for his arrest and plan to charge him with second-degree murder if they find him.

Police interviewed Rodriguez-Perez twice after Torres’ death. They didn’t arrest him because they didn’t know what caused Torres’ death. Several weeks later the toxicology report returned from a lab in Sacramento, but Torres could not be located.

“We moved as quickly as we could,” said Hans Uthe, El Dorado County assistant district attorney. “I wish it had come back faster. The medical examiner’s lab uses a lab in Oakland. So there were some delays inherent in that process.”

Now local, state and federal authorities are looking for Rodriguez-Perez. They think he may have gone to Mexico, the country where he was born.

America’s Most Wanted does not know if they will broadcast Torres’ story, but Managing Editor Jeremy Cohen said it will be considered during a pitch meeting next week.

Latin American countries may learn Rodriguez-Perez is wanted on channel 68, Univision. It’s a global cable television network with a news bureau in Reno. They broadcast to 30 Spanish-speaking countries worldwide. Regional reporter Julio Cisneros completed a story on Torres. He expects it to be broadcast soon on “Primer Impacto.”

“People think this guy is in Mexico and it will be airing Mexico, maybe that’s going to help,” Cisneros said. “If he goes to Central or South America it will be airing there, too.”

Police believe Torres, a sixth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School, ingested cocaine and alcohol March 27 at an apartment party hosted by Rodriguez-Perez. Torres attended the party along with other teen-age girls and a group of older men.

Rodriguez-Perez and a couple girls brought Torres to Barton Memorial Hospital at 1:30 a.m. She had no identification on her, so police had to authorize medical treatment. The treatment failed and doctors pronounced Torres dead at 2:08 p.m.

She died from acute cocaine toxicity. Tests also found .03 percent blood-alcohol level in Torres.

The girl’s young age, small size and the fact there was a alcohol in her system all may have contributed to her death, said El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe.

“The amount of cocaine in her system was very high based on what the medical examiner tells me,” Uthe said. “Children are simply less able to handle its impact on their body.”

Uthe said because of the number of agencies tracking this man he is optimistic the accused murderer will be brought to justice.

Rodriguez-Perez could be sentenced to 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder.

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