Alejandro Aguiler-Rojas, left, appears in Clallam County Superior Court by video link with attorney Harry Gasnick on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, for his first appearance on charges of second-degree murder. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Alejandro Aguiler-Rojas, left, appears in Clallam County Superior Court by video link with attorney Harry Gasnick on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, for his first appearance on charges of second-degree murder. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

$1 million bail set in murder case

Deputies: Woman beaten to death with tequila bottle

PORT ANGELES — Bail was set at $1 million Thursday for a Renton man suspected of the brutal murder of a woman whose body was found in the Buckhorn Wilderness south of Blyn last week.

Alejandro Aguilera-Rojas, 23, was arrested Wednesday for investigation of second-degree murder.

Alejandro Aguilera-Rojas

Alejandro Aguilera-Rojas

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office alleged that Rojas beat Dioneth Lopez to death with a tequila bottle Feb. 11 and left her for dead in a wooded area south of 7 Cedars Casino on the morning of Feb. 11.

Lopez, who lived in San Pablo, Calif., was 21.

“The deceased was left essentially in the forest like a piece of trash,” said Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, during Rojas’s bail hearing Thursday.

“We are actually lucky that she was found in a reasonably short amount of time.”

Deputies were dispatched to an arterial off Forest Road 28 south of Blyn last Friday after a passerby reported seeing a woman who did not respond when the person called out.

Lopez was thought to have died of injuries inflicted through “homicidal violence,” Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Hollis said in a Sunday statement.

“Upon arrival, deputies observed severe head trauma and multiple lacerations on the female, which led them to believe that she had died by homicide,” Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Stoppani said in the affidavit for probable cause.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden granted Devlin’s request for a $1 million bail for Rojas, citing community safety concerns and flight risk.

“It was a brutal attack,” Devlin said.

“She had multiple face and head injuries along with a slit throat, along with defensive wounds on her arms. And then, again, she is left in the wilderness to die.”

Defense attorney Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public defender requested that Rojas be released from jail on his personal recognizance.

Basden said the court had “significant concerns for safety to the community.”

Prosecutors will consider charging Rojas at his next court appearance at 1 p.m. Monday.

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said Rojas was arrested near his King County residence Wednesday and transported by deputies to Port Angeles.

Rojas had been under surveillance of sheriff’s detectives and the FBI. The FBI was involved because the body was found on federal land in Olympic National Forest.

“He was interviewed yesterday evening and arrested as a result of those interviews and additional evidence,” Clallam County Chief Criminal Sheriff’s Deputy Brian King said Thursday.

King said Aguilera-Rojas had a close personal relationship with Lopez. There were no other suspects in the case, King said.

An autopsy was scheduled to be performed at the King County Medical Examiner’s Office today.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney/Coroner Mark Nichols said he planned to travel to Seattle for the autopsy.

“I hope to have at least a preliminary set of findings by sometime next week,” Nichols said Thursday.

Investigators said the body was discovered near a bloody folding knife that Rojas later identified. Also found near the body was a broken bottle of Hornitos tequila.

The victim was identified from surveillance footage taken Feb. 10 at the Longhouse Market and Deli in Blyn.

A friend of Lopez reported her as missing to San Pablo police on Saturday.

“Investigators compared fingerprints obtained from the unidentified female to those on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, confirming the victim was Lopez,” King said in a Thursday press release.

“Further investigation revealed Rojas and Lopez were involved in an intimate dating relationship. Investigators confirmed Rojas had picked up Lopez at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after her flight from California on the morning of Monday, Feb. 10th and drove Lopez to Blyn.”

Rojas told investigators that Lopez had threatened to kill his wife and children and tried to stab him but missed, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Rojas allegedly struck Lopez in the head with a tequila bottle.

“He pushed Lopez into the woods and drove away,” Stoppani said in the affidavit.

Working with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation were detectives with the Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend police departments; Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office; U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement; Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Public Safety; State Patrol and FBI.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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