A 23-year-old Renton man has been charged with murder at the federal level after he allegedly beat a woman to death and left her body in the Olympic National Forest in February.
Alejandro J. Aguilera Rojas appeared in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma for the first time April 21 on a charge of second-degree murder for the February fatal beating of a 21-year-old woman, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I commend the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for their quick and thorough work on this case,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “The victim’s family has lost their loved one forever, and we will work hard to ensure that the defendant is held accountable for taking her life.”
The 21-year-old victim, a resident of California, had visited the Seattle area to meet up with Aguilera Rojas. The two then traveled to the area of Sequim, Washington, on Feb. 10. According to the criminal complaint, Aguilera Rojas was having a secret relationship with the victim that was hidden from his wife and family, the department said.
The woman’s friends and family members reached out to Aguilera Rojas, who provided conflicting information about her whereabouts, according to the department. A friend of the woman reported her missing to law enforcement when she did not contact them after Feb. 10.
Her body was found Feb. 14 off a logging road in Olympic National Forest with signs she had been beaten and stabbed, the department said. A broken and bloody tequila bottle, a box cutter and a knife were located near her body. There was no identification on the body.
After autopsy, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the manner of death as a homicide and the cause of death as multiple blunt and sharp force injuries.
Law enforcement reviewed surveillance video at a Sequim convenience store and determined a woman and a man, later identified as Aguilera Rojas, had visited the store.
According to the Department of Justice, law enforcement determined that Aguilera Rojas’ cell phone and the woman’s phone had been in the area of the murder on the dates of Feb. 10 and 11, and found that both phones returned back to the area of Aguilera Rojas’ residence, after the woman had been killed and left in the Olympic National Forest.
Aguilera Rojas was interviewed by law enforcement on Feb. 19 where he made “a number of different statements about his relationship with the victim and what had happened,” according to the department.
The Renton man was booked into Clallam County Corrections where he remained until being taken into federal custody.
Because the murder occurred in the Olympic National Forest on federal land, the case is being prosecuted in federal court.
The FBI and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the case, with significant assistance from the Washington State Patrol. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ye-Ting Woo and Rebecca S. Cohen.