A man who was a focus of a search warrant in the murder investigation of Moreno Valley teenager Norma Lopez worked at the girl’s high school, but as of today detectives had not publicly identified him as a suspect.
Lazarus Tasby, 25, worked at Valley View High School from March 2007 to November 2009, according to Moreno Valley Unified School District officials.
School district records show Tasby resigned for personal reasons from his position as an instructional assistant working with disabled students on Nov. 17, the Press-Enterprise reported.
Tasby’s resignation followed his arrest Oct. 29 on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute, according to Riverside County Superior Court records.
Sheriff’s detectives served the search warrant Tuesday at a home on Pegasus Way near Valley View High, and they towed a green sport utility vehicle in connection with the murder investigation.
Tasby, who lived at the home with his step-parents, was not there when the search warrant was served, an attorney told reporters Wednesday.
The owner of the home, 42-year-old Eric Mpalala Muswaswa, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer around 11 a.m. Tuesday and released about five hours later on $2,500 bail, according to sheriff’s officials.
“The entire family wishes for me to share their deep condolences for the Norma Lopez family,” said Meswaswa through an attorney. “But at the end of the day, no one in this home or in the family is responsible for Norma Lopez’s death.”
His attorney claimed authorities did not show a search warrant before the search, leading to an altercation where Muswaswa was reportedly tasered and broke his ankle. He’s seen in a picture in KESQ.com’s slideshow in handcuffs outside his home.
“The officers knocked on the door, my client opened the door,” his attorney Miles Clark said. “He indicated yes, may I help you? The officers burst into the house, and at that point my client asked, ‘Stop what is this about?’ One of the officers told him he had a search warrant, my client asked to see the search warrant, however, the officer would not allow him to see the search warrant.”
“There have not been any arrests for the murder,” sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Borja said Wednesday.
Clark said much of the search focused on Tasby. Investigators took several papers from Tasby’s room, Clark said.
Muswaswa and his wife, Wanda, have lived at the two-story residence at 26524 Pegasus Way since early 2006, according to real estate records posted online.
The Lopez family learned late Tuesday that investigators had made progress and searched a home, the Press-Enterprise reported.
Standing on her front lawn Wednesday, Norma’s sister Elizabeth Lopez held a flier of a benefit concert planned Sept. 18 at Moreno Valley College. Flowers were left on her front lawn and pictures of Norma were taped in her front window.
She said she still believes Norma was abducted by a stranger and thinks her killing could have been prevented.
“It was so close to the school,” Elizabeth told the Press-Enterprise. “It hurts me. If someone has a problem why did they live so close to the school? He could have been stopped.”
Police have told the family they believe multiple suspects may be involved, the Press-Enterprise reported.
The Muswaswa home is near Bay Avenue and Morrison Street, about three blocks from the field where authorities believe Norma was kidnapped July 15 while walking home from Valley View High.
A green sport utility vehicle was seen racing away from the scene shortly after 10 a.m. that day, about the time the girl would have been walking home from school. She was using a footpath that provided a shortcut to a friend’s house.
Sheriff’s investigators found the teen’s belongings in the field and said there were signs of a struggle. Her body was discovered five days later in a remote field off Theodore Avenue, about 2 1/2 miles to the east.
The city of Moreno Valley is offering a $35,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Norma’s death.
Anyone with information was urged to call a 24-hour hot line, (877) 242- 4345, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.