Man pleads not guilty to rape, murder of teen he met online

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he raped and killed a 13-year-old girl he met online, then set her body on fire.

Armando Cruz, 24, of Inglewood, entered pleas Tuesday to a dozen charges including murder, kidnapping and rape in the July 2 death of Patricia Alatorre of Bakersfield.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Cruz met the teenager on social media and he sent her an explicit photo while she sent him more than 20 nude images of herself and met him on two occasions, Bakersfield police alleged in court documents.

On the first occasion, Cruz drove from Los Angeles north to to Bakersfield, about 90 miles away, where he forced her to perform oral sex, police said.

The second time they met, the girl didn’t want to go with him but he drove the girl away from their meeting place, forced her to perform oral sex and then raped the screaming girl and strangled her, performing more more sex acts on her body before dousing it in lighter fluid and setting her on fire, police alleged.

Cruz was arrested on Sunday after authorities located his pickup truck, which matched one the girl was seen entering before she vanished, authorities said.