WOODLAND HILLS—After spending four years in prison for rape and murder, a Canoga Park man was released on Tuesday, September 7. Miguel Guarhaj, 36, was doing time for the 2006 murder of a woman in Woodland Hills; however, after his attorneys were granted a retrial, a Los Angeles jury acquitted him.
On Friday, June 2, 2006, the body of a 24-year-old woman was found in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, which had been abandoned in an alley in Woodland Hills. The man who found the body, phoned 9-1-1 and Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded, pronouncing the female dead upon arrival. Detectives were alerted to the crime and began an intensive investigation. The body of the woman was identified as Mayra Lopez of Canoga Park; she died from a cut to her throat.
By the next day, detectives had found a suspect. Miguel Guarhaj had dated Lopez in the past and was working as a day laborer in Canoga Park at the time of the murder. A search of his home recovered bloody clothing as well as a cell phone belonging to the victim. Though the couple had broken up almost a year prior in August, their split was due to a domestic dispute in which Guarhaj allegedly struck and chocked Lopez. Guarhaj was arrested and charged with one count each of murder and rape.
Guarhaj was convicted of the murder and has been behind bars for four years; however, he has maintained his innocence throughout. The new trial lasted three weeks, during which time the defense asserted their claim that there was insufficient evidence against their client. The jury agreed, and, after a six-day deliberation, they acquitted Guarhaj of all charges.