Los Angeles County native Sonia Rios sure had a complicated past, with her often being dubbed the “Lomita Black Widow” in connection to the mysterious deaths of both her husbands. However, when she, too, was found slain in her home in April 2007, the investigators were led onto a baffling trail looking for the killer, eventually unraveling the secrets of Sonia’s past. NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Black Widow of Lomita’ elaborately delves into this surprising case and how the perpetrators were brought to justice. Let’s have a look at the details ourselves, shall we?
How Did Sonia Rios Die?
Born on August 15, 1946, in the Philippines, Sonia Rios moved to the US in the mid-60s after marrying Earl Bourdeau, a young Marine who had traveled to her native country on his first overseas tour. The newlyweds settled in Lomita, Los Angeles County, proceeding to have a 21-year marriage which abruptly ended when Earl was shot dead in August 1987 by unknown assailants on a solo trip to Sonia’s relatives in the Philippines. Following this, she married Navy Commander Larry Risken in 1990, after just a brief courtship, and the couple resided in Lomita, where she ran a successful beauty salon.
Sixteen years into Sonia and Larry’s marriage, he traveled to the Philippines in April 2006 to visit her relatives and met an untimely end eerily similar to Earl. The strange parallels between the deaths of both her husbands led to people terming Sonia as the “Lomita Black Widow.” However, sometime around Larry’s first death anniversary in 2007, an unknown person fired a gunshot at her through the window of her salon; though she narrowly escaped then, she was not so lucky a week later.
On April 27, 2007, John Bourdeau, Sonia’s son from a previous relationship, discovered his mother lying dead in a pool of blood in the entryway of her Lomita home and immediately called the police. Authorities concluded that the 60-year-old had died the previous evening of a single gunshot in the back of her head, likely fired from her 9 mm handgun, which was missing. Surprisingly, there were no signs of forced entry, and her cash purse and jewelry remained untouched.
Who Killed Sonia Rios?
When the police commenced their investigation, they were pointed toward Sonia’s suspicious connection to the alleged murders of her spouses. Hence, they spoke to Sherry Jackson, Larry Risken’s sister, who shared that she had been receiving extortionary emails from John, claiming that he could help her retrieve her late brother’s remains from the Philippines for hefty sums of money. Another email from John allegedly offered to get Sonia killed for money, thus making him the prime suspect in his mother’s murder.
But soon, Sonia’s son was proven innocent when the police discovered that just two days before she had been attacked in her salon, an unknown man had threatened her on call and tried barging into her workplace. The call records were traced to Fernando Romero, a Navy sailor from Highland, San Bernardino County, who incidentally turned out to be a close colleague of Eric Delacruz. The latter was Sonia’s grandnephew, who was reportedly close to her and Larry and had even reached out to Sherry after his grandaunt’s death, asserting that John had killed her.
Furthermore, both Eric and Fernando were on leave when Sonia was killed, and their call records showed several exchanges between them on the day she died, that too near her house in Lomita. Not just that, the authorities traced that the bank account created to extort Sherry for money was allegedly in the name of Maria Perez, Eric’s then-wife. Also, he reportedly met Sonia’s attorney just four days after her demise, asking about his share in his grandaunt’s will, and was rather agitated to know that there was no such document and that John was the sole inheritor of his mother’s money.
Police investigation further revealed that Sonia’s description of her attacker matched Fernando’s and that the email account which messaged Sherry was created by someone aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, the Navy ship where Eric was employed. Besides, that account had been accessed multiple times using Eric’s Navy email account. With all this circumstantial evidence tying him and Fernando to Sonia’s murder, it was established that he had seemingly convinced the latter to be his accomplice in killing his grandaunt for her money.
Moreover, Eric had repeatedly tried framing John for the murder in the fake emails as well as testimonies to the police. In April 2009, Eric and Fernando were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and in February 2011, they were found guilty and convicted for the same. On March 16, 2011, they were both sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for the April 2007 murder of Sonia Rios.
Read More: Where is John Bourdeau Now?