A veteran Los Angeles city fire captain tortured a female acquaintance before he strangled her last summer, an accusation that makes him eligible for the death penalty, according to a Los Angeles County grand jury indictment unsealed in court Wednesday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Grace said outside court that David Jaime Del Toro broke Jennifer Teresa Flores' nose, jaw and ribs before killing her and dumping her body on a residential street a mile from his Eagle Rock home. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek his execution.
"She was beaten to a pulp, then strangled to death," Grace told reporters.
The fire captain, who had been out on $1-million bond since shortly after his August arrest, was handcuffed in court Wednesday and taken into custody, where he will be held without bail.
After the hearing, Flores' brother and sister-in-law, who had not spoken publicly about her slaying, expressed their grief to reporters. "I don't understand how someone who was supposed to save lives could have hurt her," Ellen Flores said.
Richard Flores, 46, said he had been especially close to his sister because their mother died when they were children. "I still hear her voice in my mind," he said.
"How someone who was supposed to protect public safety could do such a thing is beyond comprehension. The brutality is beyond understanding," he said.
Flores said he generally supports the death penalty "as an option," but declined to say whether he would back Del Toro's execution if he is found guilty.
A 23-year department veteran, Del Toro had been the supervisor of Fire Station 1 in Lincoln Heights and had trained firefighters in stress management and prevention of sexual harassment, despite a history of domestic violence allegations against him. The case highlighted the Fire Department's failure to track domestic abuse within its ranks.
Del Toro's former wife said in court papers that he had hit her on numerous occasions in the 1990s. She also said he tried to burn her with a cigarette in 1997, then punched her in the face.
In 2002, Del Toro was charged with misdemeanor violence against a girlfriend, but City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo's office dropped the case. Court papers said the assault on the girlfriend was witnessed by another firefighter who was Del Toro's roommate at the time.
Los Angeles police detectives believe Del Toro strangled Flores at his home on Vincent Avenue, then loaded her body in the back of his Toyota pickup truck. The body fell out while Del Toro was driving and may have been caught on a wheel and dragged for some distance, sources close to the investigation said.
Homicide investigators followed a trail of blood from the body to Del Toro's home, sources said.