Accused home invader faces murder,rape and torture charges against senior citizens

Defendant is accused of holding two women at knifepoint, killing one of them and sexually assaulting the other

From left to right, Deputy Public Defender Kate Braner and Eduardo Jose Torres, 20, stand before a judge.

— In what could become a death penalty case, a 20-year-old man is facing a string of felony charges — including murder, assault and torture — after a break-in last weekend at a Del Cerro home where two women were held at knifepoint.

Eduardo Jose Torres is accused of holding the two victims hostage, committing a sex act on one of them and fatally stabbing the other.

The woman who was killed was identified in court documents as Ut Nguyen, who lived in the house and was the mother of the homeowner. She was 74.

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Torres pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court. In addition to murder and other felony charges, he faces special-circumstance allegations including murder during an attempted rape that make him eligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutors have not yet determined whether they will seek Torres’ execution or a sentence of life in prison without parole if he is convicted.

During Torres’ arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Marisa Di Tillio described what happened to the victims on June 12 as “every citizen’s worst nightmare.” She said the defendant tried to break into another home on Mill Peak Road late that night, but was chased away.

He then jumped a fence and entered the house next door.

While the homeowner was at the front of the house speaking to his neighbors, who had just chased away the intruder, Torres entered the house from the rear through a sliding glass door and managed to lock out the homeowner, the prosecutor said.

Meanwhile, the two women inside the home had locked themselves inside separate bedrooms.

The intruder kicked in the bedroom door where Nguyen was hiding, grabbed her and dragged her to the other room, where the 50-year-old woman had taken shelter.

The younger woman, who was visiting from another state, opened the door to try to calm the intruder, Di Tillio said. Instead, he pushed his way into the room, locked the door behind him and sexually assaulted her.

Di Tillio said there is no evidence that the woman who was killed was sexually assaulted, but the investigation is not yet complete.

San Diego police had already been called and were on their way to the neighborhood when the intruder broke into the second house. A woman who lived in the house next door, where he had been chased away, called police about 11:40 p.m., police said.

A SWAT team was called to help deal with the situation and make an arrest. At some point, the intruder deliberately cut the 50-year-old woman with a knife to get her to scream so the officers would back off, the prosecutor said.

Eventually, he was arrested. The prosecutor said Torres was found inside a bedroom with a knife in his hand. Police described it as a 10-inch hunting knife.

Because of the seriousness of the charges, Judge Frederick Maguire ordered the defendant held in county jail on a no-bail status and ordered him to stay away from the surviving victim. The judge appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent Torres.

No details about Torres’ criminal past were revealed in the courtroom, although San Diego homicide Lt. Manny Del Toro has said the man has a violent criminal history. San Diego Superior Court records show only that Torres pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor vandalism charge in 2015.

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