Real Name: Carlos Garcia Berdeja
Aliases: Carlos B. Garcia
Wanted For: Murder, Rape
Missing Since: July 1994
Details: Carlos Berdeja is wanted for the murder of thirty-three-year-old Jeanne Ruth Molina. Jeanne was born and raised in Merced, California. After serving with the Navy, she married Frank Reed. They had three children: Joanna, ten, Elizabeth, four, and John, two. In 1994, she began having terrifying nightmares that someone was attacking and beating her, and she believed the attacker was her husband. She eventually decided to leave him to keep this from happening. She moved to southern California and planned to bring her children with her later. She got a job as a cook at a Tustin, California Red Robin restaurant and soon began training new employees.
In July, she planned to have her daughter, Joanna, move to Tustin. When her mother and stepfather drove Joanna to Jeanne's home in Tustin on July 18, they found that she was not there. They went to Red Robin and were stunned to find out that she had not reported to work that day. Her parents were worried because they knew that she was excited to have her daughter again. The next day, they went to her home but found no clues to her whereabouts. Later that day, her mother reported her missing.
Two days before, at around 6:30AM on July 17, the Westminster Police Department received a call from two residents who witnessed an older beige Nissan Sentra pull into the driveway of a water storage facility that was under construction. The driver, an olive skinned and dark haired male got out, picked up a large piece of asphalt and began slamming it into something. When he noticed the two residents, he got into his car and drove off. The residents then noticed the crumpled body of a young woman and they called the police.
When authorities arrived, her body had been so damaged that they were unable to identify her. She had been stabbed repeatedly, raped, strangled, beaten, thrown out of a car, then finally run over by it. The motive was apparently not robbery, as she had a ring on her finger and money on her. They also believed that her killer knew her.
Jeanne remained a Jane Doe for several days until her landlord, who heard she was missing, read about the unidentified woman in the newspaper. Fingerprints on the woman matched hers. Tragically, her premonitions had come true, except for the vision of her husband as her attacker. Evidence at the scene did not match him; he had an alibi and was several hundred miles away.
Detectives interviewed Jeanne's coworkers and found that she left the restaurant around 11PM on Saturday, July 16. She returned later and talked with thirty-year-old Carlos Berdeja, a coworker. Police believe that they left to celebrate her daughter's arrival. Her car was found in the parking lot near the restaurant a few days after she was identified.
On Sunday, July 17, Berdeja called in sick, claiming a family emergency that required him to go to Mexico with his family. Authorities interviewed a coworker who claimed that one month before the murder, he threatened him with a large knife and bragged that he killed someone in Mexico without getting caught. The next day he brought in a Spanish newspaper that said that he was a wanted fugitive in Mexico.
On the day he called in sick, he was seen cleaning blood stains from his Nissan Sentra; he and his common-law wife, Leticia Herrera Esteves, sold most of their possessions. He then resigned from his job. Soon after, the couple vanished with their two children, claiming that they were visiting sick relatives in Mexico.
Detectives later discovered that Berdeja had a history of dating employees, was a drug smuggler, and had another wife and children in Mexico. When his car was found abandoned a few weeks later, there was more evidence to prove he was Jeanne's killer; investigators found blood inside and determined that it had been used to run her over. Testing later determined that it was her blood.
Detectives learned that Berdeja had asked Jeanne out on a date several times, but she rejected him. They now believe that she was either forced or went willingly with Berdeja into his car. He then drove her to his home where he beat and raped her. After that, he drove her to Westminster, hit her with the piece of asphalt, and then ran her over with his car.
Carlos Berdeja is now wanted by authorities and the FBI and is on Los Angeles's 10 Most Wanted list. He is 5'7, weighs 180 pounds, has black hair, works as a short order cook, plays volleyball, and is considered armed and dangerous. He was born on November 4, 1963 and would now be fifty-four-years-old. His wife, Leticia, is also wanted in connection with the case.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the September 5, 2001 episode.
- Carlos Berdeja on Unsolved.com
- Police Identify Cook as Slaying Suspect
- $5,000 Reward Offered in '94 Slaying
- On the fun from FBI, law seeks help in finding 10 dangerous fugitives