Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
MAN IN TRIAL FOR BEATING AND STRANGLING-MURDER OF PROSTITUTE IN HOTEL ROOM
SANTA ANA – Trial began yesterday for a man charged with murdering a prostitute by severely beating and strangling her to death in her hotel room. Cesar Gomez, 36, El Monte, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery. Gomez faces a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. The jury trial will continue today, Sept. 15, 2011, in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
On Aug. 19, 2009, 24-year-old Ashley Lilly checked into a hotel room at the Crown Plaza Anaheim Resort on Harbor Boulevard. The victim posted her profile on an escort website with information about the hotel where she was staying and that she would be there for three days. Men could contact the victim through the escort site to arrange to meet Lilly for sex, and she would provide them with her room number over the phone or the Internet. Gomez is accused of contacting Lilly through the escort website and setting up a meeting.
Late on the night of Aug. 20, 2009, or early in the morning of Aug. 21, 2009, Gomez is accused of showing up at Lilly’s hotel room. He is accused of severely beating her face and body and strangling her to death. No sexual assault took place. After murdering the victim, the defendant is accused of ransacking the hotel room and stealing the victim’s personal items. Gomez is accused of then fleeing the scene with the victim’s phone and laptop.
Later in the morning on Aug. 21, 2009, hotel staff found the murdered victim on the floor of her room and contacted the Garden Grove Police Department, who investigated this case, with the assistance of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Gomez was linked to the crime through DNA collected from the crime scene, and the victim’s laptop found in his home. He was subsequently arrested by the Garden Grove Police.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.