A Renton man who has been charged with killing a 21-year-old California woman in the Olympic National Forest in February made his first appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The woman — who the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office identified as Dioneth Lopez — traveled to the Seattle area to visit 23-year-old Alejandro J. Aguilera Rojas, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Brian Moran’s office. The two were in a relationship, which was hidden from Aguilera Rojas’ wife and family, the statement said.
They left the Seattle area and headed to Sequim on Feb. 10, the statement said.
Four days later, Clallam County sheriff’s deputies found Lopez’s body off a logging road in the Olympic National Forest, with signs she had been beaten and stabbed, according to the statement. A broken and bloody tequila bottle, box cutter and knife were found near the body.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified Lopez and ruled her manner of death a homicide, the statement said. The cause of death was multiple blunt and sharp force injuries.
Law enforcement later reviewed surveillance video at a Sequim convenience store and determined that a woman matching Lopez’s description and a man, later identified as Aguilera Rojas, had visited the store on Feb. 10, according to the statement. Authorities also determined that Aguilera Rojas’ and Lopez’s cellphones had been in the area on Feb. 10 and 11, and traced both phones back to Aguilera Rojas’ residence after he allegedly killed Lopez.
Officials interviewed Aguilera Rojas on Feb. 19, when he made “a number of different statements” about his relationship with Lopez, the statement said. He told investigators that when the two went into the forest, she threatened to kill his wife and child and attempted to stab him with a knife, according to an FBI complaint filed April 10.
Aguilera Rojas said he then grabbed a tequila bottle from his truck and hit her on the head. He claimed that when he drove away, he thought Lopez was still breathing.
He was booked into Clallam County Corrections Facility, where he remained until being taken into federal custody. Because the killing occurred on federal land in the Olympic National Forest, the case is being prosecuted in federal court, the statement said.
“I commend the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for their quick and thorough work on this case,” Moran said in the statement. “The victim’s family has lost their loved one forever, and we will work hard to ensure that the defendant is held accountable for taking her life.”