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Cold Case: Maria Cortes


If you have a tip, call the SDPD Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293. For anonymous tips, call Crimestoppers at 888-580-8477 or submit your tip online.

Maria Cortes

March 4, 1992

7500 Mission Valley Road


Maria Cortes was a Mexican national who worked as a housekeeper and child care provider. She had a two-year-old daughter named Briana. Those close to Cortes described her as a devoted mother and a hard worker, dedicated to making a better life for Briana and becoming a legal citizen herself. Cortes had no car and used buses for transportation, often riding two or more buses in one trip and sometimes walking alone at night to get home from work.

Cortes was last seen alive at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, March 3, 1992, when she picked up Briana after work at a relatives house in East San Diego. Maria may have been on her way by bus to Linda Vista to attend a weekly sewing class at the Bayside Settlement House.

At about 7:15 the following morning, SDPD officers responded to a citizen's report of a child sitting on top of what appeared to be a body in an open field at 7500 Mission Valley Road. When officers arrived they found Cortes body lying in a muddy field behind a shopping center. She had been strangled to death and stabbed in the groin. Sitting on top of her body was her daughter Briana crying and suffering from hypothermia but essentially unharmed physically. Briana ran into the arms of a female police officer when officers approached.

A friend said that Cortes had a habit of sometimes accepting rides from strangers as a way to avoid the long bus rides she normally faced every day.