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California man arrested in connection with serial killings of Mexican sex workers

Bryant Rivera was charged with femicide, according to a federal complaint. He was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles County on a request from Mexican authorities.
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SAN DIEGO — A California man is suspected in a string of sex worker slayings in Mexico, the top prosecutor in Baja California said Friday.

Federal authorities arrested Bryant Rivera, 30, on Thursday in Downey, a city in Los Angeles County, at the request of Mexican authorities, according to court documents and U.S. officials.

He was placed in federal custody pending a pretrial detention hearing Monday in Los Angeles, said Thom Mrozek, the spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office for Central California.

Federal officials said they expected Mexican prosecutors to formally request extradition.

A U.S. attorney's complaint underpinning a warrant for Rivera's arrest lays out Baja California's case against him in the death last year of a Tijuana sex worker. It says he has been charged with femicide, the killing of women because they are women.

Bryant Rivera.
Bryant Rivera.via Facebook

On Friday, Baja California Attorney General Ricardo Iván Carpio Sánchez said Rivera is accused in the deaths of three women in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego.

Rivera "is considered a serial killer" and "will now face justice in Baja California," Carpio said on Facebook, according to an NBC News translation.

It wasn't clear whether Rivera had legal representation. The federal public defender's office in Los Angeles didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal complaint details the Jan. 24, 2022, killing of Ángela Carolina Acosta Flores, a dancer at a club in Tijuana and sex worker, who was last seen on security video entering a hotel room prosecutors say was rented by Rivera.

Her lifeless body was found in a bathroom the next day, and an autopsy concluded she had been asphyxiated, according to the complaint.

Baja California prosecutors say that Rivera was seen leaving the room before midnight that night and that he never returned. He crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on foot 13 minutes after having left the room, they allege in the complaint.

A witness used Rivera's first and last name in telling detectives whom she last saw with Acosta at the club, which is next to the hotel, according to the filing. The unnamed witness said she knew Rivera as a regular, the complaint says.

Another witness gave a detailed description of the defendant's face and clothing, noting that his pandemic mask didn't fit right and thus betrayed "an acne scarred face," the document says.

Last year, the Baja California attorney general's office said the suspect in all three cases had sex with his victims before he killed them. He frequented Tijuana's red light district, known as Zona Norte, it said.

It's not clear exactly what led authorities to Rivera. The complaint includes details about a truck he was associated with, as well as an image from his border crossing early on Jan. 25, 2022.

Details of the two other cases were unavailable. Baja California authorities said the deaths spanned September 2021 to February 2022. It wasn't clear whether Acosta was the last victim; her mother identified her in early February 2022, according to the federal court filing.

The Baja California attorney general's office said last year that all three bodies were found in hotel rooms.

In a video posted to the attorney general's Facebook page, Carpio credited "scientific research" and a "strong alliance and collaboration to combat crime across borders" with Thursday's arrest.

"In Baja California," he said, "no one escapes justice."

Gender violence and femicide in Mexico have sparked protests and calls for government action.

The Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System reported more than 1,900 killings of women in Mexico from January to November 2022, of which 858 were femicides, according to the U.S. State Department’s human rights report.