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Man extradited from Mexico is convicted of 2003 strangling of girlfriend in Compton

A jury on Nov. 9 found a man guilty of first-degree murder in the strangling death of his  girlfriend in 2003, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Juan Bravo Lopez, 53, was accused of killing Martha Higareda, who was 29, leaving her body in their Compton apartment and fleeing to Mexico with their children. The jury deliberated for less than two hours.

Prosecutors said Lopez and Higareda had been in a relationship for at least seven years and raised three children together, one of whom was Higareda's from another relationship. On May 9, 2003, Lopez and Higareda had an argument, and Lopez later strangled Higareda, prosecutors said.

The next day, Lopez told the children that their mother left for Mexico. He then borrowed a car from a family member and told the children they were going to meet her there, according to court records.

Four days later, neighbors at the Compton apartment complained about an odor. The apartment manager entered and found Higareda’s body under a bunk bed with a belt around her neck.

Shortly after the killing, Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives learned about the whereabouts of Higareda’s oldest child and traveled to Mexico to return the 11-year-old to the United States.(The other children returned to the U.S. about a year after the killing, according to the district attorney's office.)

U.S. law enforcement learned of Lopez’s whereabouts in 2010 and requested help from the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force to catch him. Lopez was arrested June 3, 2014, in San Vincente, Baja Mexico, and was extradited to Los Angeles.

A sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 1. Lopez faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

Contact the Homicide Report. And follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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