BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Trial is expected to begin in October for a man accused of raping and murdering a Bakersfield teen, a judge Wednesday telling attorneys to start preparing jury questionnaires and maintain communication.
“These cases involve a lot of work,” Judge John Oglesby told attorneys working the case of Armando Cruz, who faces the death penalty if convicted as charged in the grisly slaying of 13-year-old Patricia Alatorre.
Cruz, 26, is represented by Chief Assistant Public Defender Tanya Richard and Deputy Public Defender Thomas Pope.
The case is being prosecuted by Christine Antonios and Tyson McCoy.
Attorneys on both sides said they had not yet begun jury questionnaires, and Oglesby said his clerk will provide one he’s used in the past and asked they follow its format, including a question at the end regarding anything a potential juror would like to discuss in private. Jurors who indicate they want a private discussion will be seen the next day.
It should take at most a month to select a jury panel, Oglesby said.
The judge recommended choosing five or six alternate jurors. He said if a defendant in a death penalty case is found guilty there are typically one or two jurors who call in sick or otherwise don’t show when deliberations begin on whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life without parole.
Attorneys agreed to a motions hearing on Oct. 4. A trial date of Oct. 17 remains, but Oglesby said he doesn’t expect jury selection to begin that day. Instead, it’s likely they’ll take several days finalizing the questionnaire and coming up with a trial schedule.
Alatorre was first reported as a runaway but a neighbor’s surveillance camera captured her getting into a white pickup late July 1, 2020. Conversation were found on her Instagram account between her and a man insisting she meet him or he would post inappropriate photos of her online.
It’s alleged Alatorre had met with the man, later identified as Cruz, once previously, and agreed to see him a second time after he threatened to leak the photos.
Detained days later in Inglewood, Calif., Cruz described in detail how he killed the teen, according to court documents. He directed investigators to where he left her cellphone and the construction site where he dumped her body.