Death in the Dorms: Inside the Shocking Murder of 21-Year-Old UCLA Student Andrea DelVesco (2023)

(LOS ANGELES) -- Westwood, the quaint Los Angeles neighborhood where UCLA is located, 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 and set on fire in her Westwood apartment in an unfathomable crime that shook the entire campus.

Andrea "Andy" DelVesco was an adventurous 21-year-old psychology student.

“When Andrea was in high school, she loved to study. He was always reading and going to museums," his mother, Leslie DelVesco, told ABC News. “I wanted to study psychology. I thought, 'This is a perfect career for you, you're a natural.'”

She blossomed at UCLA, where she loved hanging out with her Pi Beta Phi sisters and falling in love with their dog, Shay Panda.

"After we moved Andrea in," her mom 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 violent crime. The series will stream exclusively on Hulu on January 5, 2023.

"Where's Andy?"

In the early morning of September 21, 2015, Sarah Muhr, another Pi Phi sister who lived above DelVesco in an apartment complex in Westwood, called 911.

"I woke up because I heard someone screaming and a dog barking," Muhr told ABC News. "I called Andy's phone a couple of times, she didn't answer. And I immediately called 911...I had a terrible feeling."

Responding officers spoke to Muhr and then began looking around the various apartments, including DelVesco's, according to Victor Avila, a Los Angeles County assistant district attorney.

Officers "noticed no damage or signs of a break-in," Avila told ABC News. "You didn't see anything. And given what they had, they didn't bother knocking on any doors at the time. And so by that point they were gone."

After officers left, Muhr said she heard a loud noise in a room below her.

So I run to my balcony. And then I saw Andy's room on fire, and then this guy ran out of Andy's room. And he kind of has a blanket over him," she said. "I ran into the street and saw this red car drive away."

On the back window of the car were letters for the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

"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 in bed. His body was charred...almost unrecognizable," Avila said. “They also noticed that there was a dog. The dog had trouble breathing, he was burned.

"The killer tried to cover up his crime"

The shocked Pi Phi sisters told police they had all been together the night before, drinking wine at home and preparing for the sorority race.

"She didn't have a boyfriend at the time, so we thought it might have been a Tinder date that went wrong," sorority sister Jacquie Madeiro told ABC News. "I was just thinking about the fear he must have been going through, I was really scared."

Andrea DelVesco was stabbed 19 times in the body, including two cuts on her neck, Avila said.

They had placed a garbage can on her bed and set it on fire. No smoke was found in Andrea DelVesco's lungs, so it appeared she was killed before the fire broke out, 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 part of me didn't want to accept it until I saw her," Leslie DelVesco said. “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, 'She's in pain.' We all agreed that it would be better to let Shay Panda go to Andrea," he said. "We said goodbye to Shay Panda and sent her to kiss Andrea for us. And then it hit me: When Andrea in the same fire was involved, what must her body have been like?

Fresno State student arrested

As officers broke into the campus, two UCLA students who lived across the street from Andrea DelVesco's complex told officers their home was broken into "around the time Sarah Muir reported a person outside his home," Avila said .

"The items stolen from her apartment included laptops and Sonos speakers, which you must register online to use them," Avila said. "Two days after the murder of Andrea DelVesco, a Sonos speaker representative tells a police officer that someone attempted to search these stolen Sonos speakers online using a new email address. With the email address...the detectives have the name of someone in Fresno connected to the speakers.”

Police contacted the person listed in the email, Avila said. This 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 sono speakers when he got 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 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 made the emergency call around 7:01 a.m. about the fire and the suspect's escape," Avila said. "Sarah sees this individual jump off Andrea's balcony into the yard, and his back is covered with a red blanket."

Surveillance video showed Medina and Marquez's home returning to Marquez's home around 7:06 a.m. and showed Medina in 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 surveillance video and cannot recall the details of the critical time when the murder occurred."

Police found Medina had multiple scratches and abrasions, while Marquez had none, according to Avila.

Police also learned that Medina's red car matched the car Muhr had seen, down to the details of Medina's fraternity sticker, Avila said.

Andrea DelVesco's DNA was obtained from blood swabs 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 his sentence"

On September 21, 2018, three years after the college senior's death, her convicted killer, 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 3am. Later that morning, detectives believed Medina had entered his apartment," Avila said. "He stabbed her 19 times while she was screaming. Then he can stay in that room while the police investigate the disturbance for that first 911 call. He doesn't panic. He stays in the room and then considers how to destroy the evidence, which he does by setting fire to it and his room."

The conviction brought his mother "great relief".

"He would finally be serving his sentence for killing Andrea," Leslie DelVesco said.

Referring to Eric Márquez, Ávila said, "There was insufficient evidence that Márquez knew exactly what was happening at Andrea DelVesco's apartment. We believe the best thing to do was settle the case with Marquez to find something more appropriate to his behavior. Marquez pleaded guilty to assisting and abetting the robbery of Andrea DelVesco and being an afterthought an accomplice. He was sentenced to two years and eight months in state prison.”

Seven years after Andrea DelVesco's murder, her mother says there's a big 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 limitless and infinite and that we should all cherish the moments we have together."

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