NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Black Widow of Lomita’ explores the shocking murder of 60-year-old Sonia Rios, who was given the titular name due to her alleged connection with the deaths of her two husbands. As the investigation began unraveling the twisted secrets of her past, the police first suspected her son John Bourdeau, based on extortionary emails received by Sherry Jackson, Sonia’s sister-in-law. However, soon the blackmailer turned out to be Eric Delacruz, Sonia’s grandnephew, who had seemingly concocted a devious plan with his colleague to eliminate her. Let’s find out more about his involvement and current status, shall we?
Who is Eric Delacruz?
Eric Santander Delacruz was a Navy sailor from Carson, Los Angeles County, who had a promising career ahead. He was supposedly quite close to his grandaunt Sonia, and her second husband, retired Navy Commander Larry Risken, whom he addressed as “grandma and grandpa,” respectively. The couple resided in Lomita and had accumulated a lot of wealth, given Sonia’s thriving beauty salon and Larry’s multiple insurances. Yet, the couple reportedly had issues in their marriage of 16 years, and in a shocking turn of events, the former Navy Commander was shot dead in April 2006 on a trip to the Philippines, where Sonia’s relatives lived.
Surprisingly, around Larry’s first death anniversary in April 2007, Sonia was attacked in her salon by an unknown assailant, who fired a single gunshot at her but missed. Barely a week later, on April 26, 2007, she was shot dead in her home and discovered by her son John Bourdeau the next morning. Interestingly, Larry’s sister Sherry reported that she had been receiving emails demanding money in exchange for his remains and later offering a hit on Sonia only if she paid a hefty sum. Moreover, Eric, who had contacted the Riskens with Larry’s belongings after his death, repeatedly asserted that it was John who had allegedly shot Sonia.
Upon questioning by the police, Eric again stated his suspicions against John, but soon a different scenario unraveled. The police discovered that the former’s colleague Fernando Romero had called and threatened Sonia a couple of days before the attempt on her life in her salon. Not just that, at the time of Sonia’s death, Eric and Fernando had been on leave from the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, where they were working. Besides, their call records showed several interactions between them on the day of the murder, with the location near the victim’s Lomita residence.
Even more baffling was that the emails Sherry apparently received from John were traced to someone onboard the U.S.S.Reagan, and Eric’s Navy email account had been used to access the one sending her the messages. Furthermore, the description Sonia had given to the police of her attacker resembled Fernando. Later, the investigators found that the bank account to which the blackmailer instructed Sherry to send money to was in the name of Maria Perez, Eric’s wife.
Finally, it was also discovered that Eric had visited his grandaunt’s attorney just four days after her murder, enquiring about his share in her money. He was visibly disappointed when told that Sonia had no will and that John was the sole inheritor.
Where is Eric Delacruz Today?
With all evidence in place, it was concluded that Eric had plotted to murder his grandaunt with his colleague, Fernando, to access her money which he felt was rightfully his. On April 26, 2007, both men entered Sonia’s house and fatally shot her with her 9 mm handgun, leaving no traces behind. To avoid suspicion, Eric had elaborately posed as John, shifting the blame to him in the eyes of the law.
Based on all the circumstantial evidence piled up against him, 29-year-old Eric Delacruz was arrested from his grandparents’ home in Carson in April 2009. He and Fernando were both charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder and were found guilty and convicted for the same in February 2011. During her testimonies, Maria confessed that she had earlier provided fake alibis for her husband on the day of the murder, thus strengthening the case against him.
On March 16, 2011, both men were sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for co-conspiring and murdering Sonia Rios. Eric Delacruz is currently incarcerated at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, California, and will be eligible for parole only after January 2027. In addition, he will be facing the Parole Board for review in January 2023.
Read More: Where is John Bourdeau Now?