SAN JOSE (BCN) A 24-year-old man suspected of killing a 59-year-old San Jose woman in her home on Thursday was an undocumented immigrant and admitted gang member who had been arrested numerous times, San Jose police announced Tuesday.
Bambi Larson was killed in her home in the 900 block of Knollfield Way on Thursday afternoon. Police responded to the address after her coworkers reported her missing to her son, and found her dead with at least one stab wound.
The case was initially ruled as a "suspicious death" by police. The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office later determined she died of blunt force injuries to the throat and neck.
On Monday, police announced they had arrested Carlos Eduardo Arevalo Carranza, who is believed to be homeless, and booked him into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of murder.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia held a news conference Tuesday, saying police first made contact with Arevalo Carranza Monday at Foxworthy and Pearl avenues to arrest him for alleged methamphetamine possession. He was then cited and released.
Meanwhile, an ongoing investigation returned DNA evidence from multiple locations around Larson's home, including a "bloody trail" of footprints left behind by the suspect, Garcia said.
Arevalo Carranza's DNA taken during the initial arrest matched the samples, and police once again located and arrested him on suspicion of murder.
On the day Larson was killed in her home, surveillance footage showed Arevalo Carranza "stalking" the area and later on leaving the residence after the killing, Garcia said. Police have not yet been able to
find a connection between Larson and the suspect.
An ongoing investigation revealed Arevalo Carranza had allegedly been detained by Homeland Security Investigations in McAllen, Texas in 2013 and deported, but he returned to the United States and was arrested numerous times on suspicion of offenses including burglary, battery, false imprisonment, possession of methamphetamine and prowling.
Arevalo Carranza was arrested and released in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties six times, and was most recently arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine and paraphernalia in January.
He is currently on probation for the charges, and Garcia said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed him under a detainer order that would allow him to be held in jail until federal authorities arrive. The order was repeatedly ignored by Santa Clara County due to its sanctuary
President Donald Trump has drawn attention to a handful of high-profile slayings by undocumented immigrants to vehemently criticize sanctuary city policies, but Garcia was quick to point out Tuesday that Larson's murder by a stranger was a rare occurrence and San Jose police will not take actions that cause immigrants to fear police.
He said, however, that her murder demands police and the county have a conversation over its refusal to honor ICE detainer requests for violent criminals.
San Jose police do not request immigration status when making an arrest or report or arrest undocumented immigrants living in the city, but Garcia said ignoring detainers and releasing inmates from custody who have committed serious crimes undermines the city's safety.
"This isn't about politics, this is about public safety," Garcia said, adding that documented and undocumented immigrants should have no reason to fear police in the city. "He could have been turned over six times."
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called Larson's death a "devastating tragedy" and doubled down on Garcia's statements, calling for a change in the county's policy that would benefit all residents, especially immigrants who are most often targeted by felons who should be deported.
Sheriff Laurie Smith released a statement following the news conference siding with the city's position.
"This is a senseless act, and very well may have been preventable," Smith said. "Carlos Arevalo-Carranza is a violent predator who should have remained in custody until officials with ICE had the appropriate time to evaluate his immigration status."
She said she has long stood by a system of honoring ICE holds, and would advocate to change this county policy.
"We will go to the end of the Earth to catch a predator like this," Garcia said, emphasizing that at the heart of the issue is a mother and coworker who was senselessly killed.
Mayor Sam Liccardo issued his own statement asking for the county to reconsider its ICE hold request policy, which he said "undermines the safety of the the very immigrant communities we collectively seek to protect."
"The County's policy has nothing to do with the City's decades-long policy of declining to have police engage in federal immigration enforcement, which was implemented to protect public safety," the statement continued.
The Police Officers Association took on a harsher tone in their own statement: "If you are an undocumented violent criminal, you do not deserve any legal protection that allows you to continue breaking laws and harming women, police officers and others." They called for a fix to laws surrounding the sexual assault and victimization of women.
Larson attended San Jose State University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, and was a manager at medical testing company Roche Sequencing Solutions in San Jose.
"We are saddened by the sudden passing of our colleague and friend," company officials said in a statement last week. "Given the nature of the ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further, out of respect for the family as well."
District 9 Councilwoman Pam Foley, whose district includes the neighborhood where Larson was killed, said she was "deeply saddened" by Larson's death. She also commented on a murder-suicide involving a mother and her two children last Wednesday.
"I extend my sincerest sympathies to each family," Foley said in a statement.
KTVU contributed to this report.