NBC’s ‘Dateline‘ has been a staple of the true-crime genre ever since its premiere in 1992. Given how long this series has been on the air, it has an extensive archive of some of the most baffling cases to have transpired in America. Sometimes, it even revisits matters with added updates, which has been the case for its episode entitled ‘The Promise.’ Profiling the 1994 disappearance and murder of Cathy Torrez, this classic highlights exactly how investigators used advanced technology to bring her justice decades later. Curious to know more? We’ve got the details for you.
How Did Cathy Torrez Die?
At 20-years-old, Cathy Torrez was described by her friends and family as a smart, beautiful, and responsible young lady. The Placentia resident was an honor sociology student at Cal State Fullerton and had dreams of becoming a social worker one day. After all, she had already immersed herself in tutoring and mentoring those who belonged to the “rougher” neighborhoods. Therefore, on February 12, 1994, when she didn’t return home after her shift at a local drug store like she was supposed to, her loved ones reported her missing.
On February 19, following a community-wide search, Cathy’s 1990 Toyota Corolla was found abandoned in the Placentia Linda Hospital parking lot. And in the trunk of her vehicle was her cold, bloodied, and decomposing body. According to her autopsy report, she was stabbed dozens of times, with puncture wounds all over her head, face, and upper body. However, it was the three slashes made on her wrists and neck that ended her life. With Cathy’s manner of death ruled as a homicide, the search to find the truth about what happened began.
Who Killed Cathy Torrez?
Investigators suspected Cathy Torrez’s ex-boyfriend, Sam Lopez, was behind her disappearance even before her body was discovered. They believed that he was lying about his whereabouts on the night of the incident, especially as several of Cathy’s friends and co-workers had already told them that she had planned to meet with Sam after work. When this got combined with Sam’s stoic expressions upon being notified of his girlfriend’s demise, their doubts furthered. Thus, a year later, they publicly named him as their primary suspect.
However, with no physical evidence tying Sam to Cathy’s remains or her car, the case went cold. Several years later, investigations into this slaying were revived, which led to the use of advanced techniques and the discovery of DNA belonging to Sam’s cousin, Xavier Lopez, on Cathy’s clothes. With this, in 2007, both Sam and Xavier were charged and arrested for murder. When Sam stood trial for the same, the prosecutors alleged that he stabbed Cathy 74 times before he and his cousin combined forces to dispose of her body.
They also claimed that this came after the couple’s on-and-off relationship had become volatile and that their argument that night made Sam snap. Sam took to the stand himself during his sentencing hearing and confessed to his girlfriend’s brutal killing. He admitted that everything the prosecutors said was true, from the state of his bond with Cathy to how he attacked her when she tried to run away after their fight. Sam implied that he made the final three slashes after he and Xavier had already placed her in the trunk of her car. Moreover, Sam’s brother, Armando Lopez was also involved with the cover-up.
In the end, Sam Lopez was convicted and sentenced for first-degree murder. On the other hand, Xavier pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and received a four-year, eight-month prison sentence. During his hearing, Xavier testified that he was sitting in his truck when he saw the argument between Cathy and Sam break out. He revealed he ran to the couple and tried to pull his cousin off of Cathy, but it didn’t work. Instead, all he did was injure his hand in the process. When everything was over, Xavier said he helped Sam dispose of Cathy’s body.
Read More: Where is Sam Lopez Now?