Man sentenced to prison for 2003 killing of Santa Cruz County teen


SANTA CRUZ — The man who fatally stabbed 17-year-old Jessica Sheridan in an abandoned Soquel preschool nearly two decades ago was sentenced this week to 35 years in state prison for voluntary manslaughter and multiple sexual assault charges.

District attorney's inspector Henry Montes, fugitive Miguel Loza and inspector Morgan Chappell complete their international escort from Mexico City to Santa Cruz County Jail on Wednesday. (District Attorney's Office -- Submitted)
District attorney’s inspector Henry Montes, fugitive Miguel Loza and inspector Morgan Chappell complete their international escort from Mexico City to Santa Cruz County Jail in 2019. (District Attorney’s Office — Submitted) 

Shortly after a Feb. 10, 2003 attack, Santa Cruz County investigators identified Miguel Ramirez Loza, 46, as the suspected killer, believing he had fled the country to escape charges in the case. It was not until June 2019, that authorities were able to extradite Loza from Mexico, where he is a citizen, to face trial in the then-cold case.

According to Santa Cruz County Superior Court records, Loza pleaded no contest to four felony charges Aug. 10, just weeks before his trial was set to begin. As part of the deal, four additional charges were dropped and some charges — including scaling murder back to voluntary manslaughter — were modified.

Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached this week for comment on the charge modifications.

At his hearing Wednesday, Loza faced sentencing for voluntary manslaughter, oral copulation by use of force with a minor, assault with intent to rape and terrorist threats, plus enhancements for use of a firearm and great bodily injury in the commission of a sex offense.



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