BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Superior Court judge on Monday said a defense motion seeking to bar the public from pretrial hearings in the case of a man accused of raping and killing 13-year-old Patricia Alatorre will be heard next month at his arraignment.
Armando Cruz was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month and is scheduled for arraignment Nov. 4. He was originally charged in July 2020, days after Alatorre’s death, but that case will be dismissed and replaced by the charges listed in the indictment, which has not been made public.
A gag order has been issued in the case prohibiting attorneys from commenting on matters other than scheduling.
After confirming the motion date, Judge Charles R. Brehmer rebuked Cruz’s Los Angeles-based attorneys for their failure to attend a hearing and being unreachable on Friday, and for being late to call into Monday’s hearing. He said court staff repeatedly tried reaching the pair on Friday and had not received prior notice they wouldn’t be present.
Brehmer asked them to explain why they shouldn’t be fined.
Tomas Requejo said it was an error on their part in not recognizing Cruz’s hearing would be in a different courtroom. He said he and co-counsel Joel G. Garcia had planned to appear telephonically and made multiple calls to the court clerk’s office.
Appearing telephonically wasn’t the issue, Brehmer said, it was that there was no appearance at all.
The judge ordered defense counsel to appear in person for the Nov. 4 hearing, and instructed them to use the court website to let the court know if they’ll be late for future hearings.
Requejo and Garcia have represented Cruz for more than a year after charges including rape and murder were filed against him.
Alatorre was initially reported as a runaway July 2 of last year, but a neighbor’s Ring doorbell camera captured her entering a white pickup. Police found conversations on her Instagram account showing a man offered to pay her for sex acts and threatened to leak inappropriate photos of her online if she didn’t meet him, according to court documents.
That man was identified as Cruz and Los Angeles police arrested him in Inglewood, the filings say.
Cruz told police he communicated with Alatorre through the app and twice met her in Bakersfield. He described in detail how he killed the teen and disposed of her body, according to the documents.