Westwood, the quaint Los Angeles neighborhood where UCLA is based, is the "perfect college town," according to one student. "It's beautiful. It feels safe."
But one morning in September 2015, just as a new school year was beginning, a bright and promising student was brutally stabbed to death and torched in her Westwood apartment, in an unfathomable crime that shocked the entire campus.
Andrea "Andy" DelVesco was a 21-year-old adventurer who majored in psychology.
“When Andrea was in high school, she loved to study. She was always reading and going to museums," her mother, Leslie DelVesco, told ABC News. "She was interested in studying psychology. I thought, 'This is a perfect career for you, you're a natural.'"
He blossomed at UCLA, where he loved hanging out with his Pi Beta Phi sisters and falling in love with their dog, Shay Panda.
"After we moved Andrea in," her mother recalled, "I looked at her and said, 'Honey, this is your chance to grow up and become who you want to be.'"
Watch ABC News Studios' six-part series, Death in the Dorms, which tells the tragic stories of six college students whose lives were ended by a violent crime. The series will stream exclusively on Hulu on January 5, 2023.
In the early morning of September 21, 2015, Sarah Muhr, another Pi Phi sister who lived in DelVesco in an apartment complex in Westwood, called 911.
"I woke up because I heard someone yelling and a dog barking," Muhr told ABC News. "I called Andy's phone a couple of times, she didn't answer. And I just dialed 911 right away. ... I just got this horrible feeling."
Responding officers spoke with Muhr and then began searching several homes, including DelVesco's, according to Victor Avila, the Los Angeles County assistant district attorney.
Officers "noticed any damage or signs of trespassing," Avila told ABC News. "You didn't see anything. And given what they had, they didn't feel the need to knock on any doors at that point. And so they left at that point."
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After the officers left, Muhr said she heard a loud noise coming from a room below her.
"So I ran to my balcony. And then I saw Andy's room on fire and then this guy running out of Andy's room. And he covered himself with a blanket," she said. "I ran into the street and I saw this red car drive away."
Letters to the Alpha Lambda Chi Brotherhood hung from the rear window of the car.
"All the other girls started waking up because the fire alarms went off, and then everyone was like, 'Where's Andy?'" Muhr said.
“Once the fire was out, firefighters were able to see the body of a young woman lying on the bed. Her body was charred...almost unrecognizable," Avila said. "They also noticed that there was a dog. The dog was out of breath, he was burned."
"The killer tried to cover up his crime"
The shocked Pi Phi sisters told police that they had all been together the night before, drinking wine at home and preparing for the sorority's attack.
"She didn't have a boyfriend at the time, so we thought it might have been a Tinder date gone wrong," sorority sister Jacquie Madeiro told ABC News. "I just thought about the anxiety she must have been going through, she was really scared."
Andrea DelVesco was stabbed 19 times throughout the body, including two cuts to the neck, Avila said.
A rubbish bin had been placed on her bed and set on fire. No smoke was found in Andrea DelVesco's lungs, so it appears he died before the fire started, Avila said.
"Investigators believed the killer tried to cover up his crime by setting her and her room on fire," she said.
As soon as Andy's mother arrived in Los Angeles, she said she wanted to see her daughter's body.
"I knew she was dead, but a part of me didn't want to accept it until I saw her," said Leslie DelVesco. "I just wanted to hold her one last time. And [the police] said, 'Well, we can't let that happen until the autopsy is done.'"
But she was allowed to go to the animal hospital to see her daughter's injured dog, Shay Panda.
“The doctor came over and said, 'He's suffering.' We all agreed that it would be better to let Shay Panda join Andrea," he said. We say goodbye to Shay Panda and send her to kiss Andrea for us. And then I was hit with a shock: if Andrea was involved in the same fire as her body it must have been."
Fresno State student arrested
As officers flooded the college campus, two UCLA students who lived across the street from Andrea DelVesco's compound told officers who entered her home "around the time Sarah Muir reported a person outside her home." Avila said.
“Items stolen from her apartment included laptops and Sonos speakers, which you must register online to use,” Avila said. "Two days after the murder of Andrea DelVesco, a representative for Sonos speakers tells a police officer that someone has attempted to register these stolen Sonos speakers online with a new email address associated with the speakers."
Police contacted the person listed in the email, Avila said. That person told officers that he borrowed the speakers from his roommate, Alberto Medina.
“Medina's roommate tells them that Alberto Medina was in Los Angeles that weekend to visit a friend at UCLA,” Avila said, “and that he had these speakers when he came back.”
Medina, a 22-year-old Fresno State University student with no criminal record, admitted to police that he stole the speakers, a laptop and alcohol.
Medina told officers that the friend she was visiting, Eric Marquez, was the one who killed Andrea DelVesco, but officers said the evidence told a different story.
“Sarah Muhr called 911 about the fire and the escape of the suspect at around 7:01 a.m.,” Avila said. "Sarah sees this guy jumping off Andrea's balcony into the yard, and his back is covered in a red blanket."
Surveillance video showed Medina and Márquez returning to Márquez's apartment at around 7:06 a.m. and carrying Medina with a red blanket, authorities said.
Márquez told police that "he was very drunk," Avila said. "He does not remember what was shown to him on the surveillance video and he cannot remember the details of the critical hour when the murder occurred."
Police found that Medina had multiple scratches and abrasions, while Avila said Marquez had none.
Police also learned that Medina's red car matched the car Muhr saw, right down to the details of Medina's fraternity sticker, Avila said.
Andrea DelVesco's DNA was obtained from bloodstains in Medina's car, Avila said, and in Medina's room police found Andrea DelVesco's red blanket and a bloody knife that matched the set in her apartment.
"serve your sentence"
On September 21, 2018, exactly three years after the death of the college senior, her convicted murderer, Alberto Medina, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Medina was found guilty of murder, arson, robbery and cruelty to animals in May 2018.
"According to one of Andrea's roommates, Andrea fell asleep around 3 a.m. Later that morning, detectives believed that Medina went to her apartment," Avila said. "He stabbed her 19 times while she was screaming. He then he can stay in that room while the cops investigate the disturbance for that first 911 call. He doesn't panic. He stays in the room and then thinks about how to destroy the evidence, and he does so by setting fire to her and her room."
The conviction brought her mother "great relief."
“He would finally be serving his sentence for killing Andrea,” Leslie DelVesco said.
As for Eric Márquez, Ávila said: "There was insufficient evidence that Márquez knew exactly what happened in the apartment of Andrea DelVesco guilty of aiding and assisting in Andrea DelVesco's robbery after the fact." He was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison."
Seven years after the murder of Andrea DelVesco, her mother says there is a great lesson in her short life.
"Andrea was here to show us a deeper understanding of what love is," said Leslie DelVesco. "She taught me that love is boundless and infinite and that we all cherish the moments we have together."
Death in the Dorms: Inside the Shocking Murder of 21-Year-Old UCLA Student Andrea DelVescooriginally appeared onabcnews.go.com