NEW UPDATES: Just Another Orange County Murder: Ashley Nicole Lilly


Cesar Gomez has been arrested in the murder of Ashley Nicole Lilly
Cesar Gomez has been arrested in the murder of Ashley Nicole Lilly
Courtesy of Garden Grove Police Department

Cesar Gomez looks pretty tough with his stocky build, ink-drum-draining collection of tattoos and long, violent rap sheet.

But when the 34-year-old illegal immigrant, three-time deportee to his native Mexico and Los Angeles street gang member was brought in to face Garden Grove police detectives Thursday after being arrested for the murder of 24-year-old Ashley Nicole Lilly, he "crumpled like a cheap suit" and started "crying like a baby," according to an insider who demanded anonymity.

Perhaps the gravity of the shit Gomez is in had finally hit him.

As Garden Grove police chief Joe Polisar put it at a press conference in front of his police station this morning, "My guess is he'll never see his native soil again."

Ashley Nicole Lilly worked as a prostitute under the name "Queen Sugar."
Ashley Nicole Lilly worked as a prostitute under the name "Queen Sugar."
Chief Joe Polisar describes the murder of Ashley Nicole Lilly.
Chief Joe Polisar describes the murder of Ashley Nicole Lilly.
Photo by Matt Coker

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Homicide investigators determined that Gomez had addresses in El Monte and Artesia, and that he often identified himself by another name and Social Security number, including his brother's, in an attempt to avoid authorities and another deportation. Their appearances are similar, Hanfield said, so it would be understandable if an officer who pulled Gomez over would not question the identity he provided.

After two days of surveillance, a car was followed in the area of Pioneer and Artesia with Gomez believed to be the man behind the wheel and two passengers riding with him. A Los Angeles County sheriff's unit pulled the car over, and Gomez gave a false name, according to the police report. His known tattoos led investigators to believe they had caught their man, something that was later confirmed with his fingerprints.

The suspect was then brought to the Garden Grove Police Department by investigators, and after putting up a brave front as he was led inside, it was behind closed doors that he "wept like a little bitch," according to the source.

"We were not sure if he was armed," the captain said. "But when he came to the station with us, he just shrugged his shoulders and kept his head down."

Gomez was later taken to Orange County Jail, booked on capital murder charges and held with no bail. Special circumstances will apply because a robbery was committed along with the murder, according to the Orange County District Attorneys Office. Gomez is being held without bail and, if convicted, could get life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He is expected to be arraigned on Monday at the West Justice Center.

R.I.P. "Queen Sugar," Ashley Nicole Lilly.
R.I.P. "Queen Sugar," Ashley Nicole Lilly.

Handfield said Gomez's felony criminal history includes robbery, attempted murder and auto theft. He was deported three times to Mexico for being an illegal alien after serving time for his convictions: the first time in 2001, the next in 2004 and the third time in 2006. Police believe that upon his return to this side of the border, Gomez began establishing new identities to make it more difficult to track him.

At the moment, robbery appears to be the suspect's only motive for killing Lilly. But because murders of prostitutes often repeat these heinous crimes, investigators will also see if the suspect matches with other unsolved crimes, if he may even be a serial killer.

As for the murder at hand, investigators will backtrack to see how Gomez fits in with the other evidence collected at the hotel, including the surveillance video. Police also want to determine if there are other suspects who may have helped Gomez before, during or after the crime. For instance, the people in the car with him went along with the phony identification he first gave officers.

Police believe Gomez contacted Lilly through the Internet and agreed to meet her at the Crowne Plaza. There is no indication yet that they had communicated with her before making those arrangements.

In the days between Lilly's death, through to her Sept. 2 burial in the St. Louis, Mo., area, where she grew up, and up to Gomez's arrest, many commenting online here and on other sites have blasted the police investigation, calling it slow. Some wondered if it was because the woman was an;escort or African American. Comparisons were made between the;scant release of murder details and mainstream media coverage of Lilly's death with the glut of official information and world-wide media attention given to the grisly slaying of blonde, Caucasian, swimsuit model Jasmine Fiore, whose nude and mutilated body was found Aug. 15 stuffed into a small suitcase that was tossed into a Buena Park dumpster.

Capt. Mike Handfield talks about the murder investigation as Polisar looks on.
Capt. Mike Handfield talks about the murder investigation as Polisar looks on.
Photo by Matt Coker

"I don't think this was much different than other cases," Handfield said today. "Some say that victims who are prostitutes are expendable. I don't think so. We investigate like she's one of our family members.

". . . We work all these cases hard," he continued. ". . . There is a process. There was a lot of information with this case. It took a lot of us to work on that. In every case, something doesn't go right, you rebound and move on. This resulted in getting a fugitive off the streets."

Lilly worked in a dangerous profession, and "you can see what happens," Handfield said.

Polisar then moved to the podium, saying he wanted to add something.

"There are very few homicides in Garden Grove," he said before waving an arm in a direction of several plain-clothes officers looking on. "These investigators use every tool in their tool box."

Working under the pseudonym "Queen Sugar," Lilly had chillingly advertised on various adult Internet sites that Aug. 20 would be her last night in Garden Grove.

"Sugar's Steamy Hott Special," which appears to be the last advertisement for Lilly's escort services, posted at 8:12 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20, on, whose classified ads OC Weekly links to. It reads:

"Hey Fellas...its my last night in Garden Grove. I'm up ready but lonely. . . . Come keep me company. I'm 5'8" . . . 138 lbs. . . . Measurements of 36D-24-34. I'm back to being a brunette fellas . . . HOTT!!"

She then instructed potential clients to call her at a number in the 310 area code and to, "Ask for Sugar." Her "Welcome Home Specials" included rates of $90 for 15 minutes, $120 for a half hour and $200 for an hour. She described the meeting location as "upscale & discrete [sic] (how it should always be)."
This photo appeared with "Queen Sugar" Ashley Nicole Lilly's last advertisement on

Lilly also advertised her services on other sites, including the Internet escort network Humaniplex Orange County , that she would be in Orange County on Aug. 19 and 20 at a hotel near the I-5 freeway and Harbor Boulevard.

"Don't miss out," wrote the woman who registered for a Humaniplex profile in January under the "Queen Sugar" pseudonym.

She apparently liked it here, writing in another Humaniplex message: "Hey Fellas. ... I'm Moving to Orange County. ... I've been treated so well when ever I visit. ... I decided to make it my PERMANENT Home. Come Welcome SUGAR to the NEIGHBORHOOD."

An online tribute site to (warning: Most photos there are not safe for work)--opens with a message based on another that has been previously posted since Garden Grove police announced Lilly's death. The message claims to be from someone who believes he or she may have seen Lilly while waiting for an elevator at the Crowne Plaza on Aug. 20.

The girl I saw looked very out of place, because she was dressed very nicely in black, with high heels and a smile. She stood out like a sore thumb in the lobby full of sunburned exhausted Disneyland families and groups of scruffy Mountain Dew-fueled Blizzcon kids. Regardless of what this girl did for a living, she did not deserve to die at the hands of some maniac.

The writer claims to have also witnessed the buzz around the hotel lobby around 10 a.m. on Aug. 21, when police found Lilly's body.

I just knew it was something very bad, I asked a police officer if someone was hurt and the police officer said: "It's just a whole lot of nothing." I grabbed a cab to the convention center and the cabby told me that the police officer said a girl died. Later that day when I came back to the hotel, the staff STILL would not even say anything about what had happened in the hotel. So I checked the news and thats when the story started breaking.

The writer claimed to have run into some other Blizzcon attendees who said their rooms were on Crowne Plaza's third floor and room 320 or 322 was cordoned off with police tape.

I couldn't believe it, that was almost directly under my room! I was probably 50 feet away from this poor girl when she was killed, and I am still sick thinking about it. I saw the news trucks camped outside, and the next time I went downstairs I talked to one of the bell desk staff and he said that she was probably "just a prostitute." I was flabbergasted at the response, I just couldn't believe how unremorseful and uninterested the staff was acting after a girl was just murdered in the hotel that day. They were way more concerned about keeping their guests from finding out then asking anyone if they saw/heard anything out of ordinary.

The writer expresses remorse for Lilly's family.

Humaniplex includes blog threads between escorts and the men who hire them. In one thread Lilly began in February, she wrote, "My mind sometimes escapes me. I sometimes catch myself daydreaming. Fantasizing about wild Sexapades. ... Would you like to share with me a fantasy? ...Take me there...."

In light of Lilly's death, the same blog was used to alert members to beware of a killer on the loose.

"One of our own level 2 girls was just murdered in a fairly busy hotel," read one message posted the day after police found Lilly's body.

"Wow ... one of our own," writes another. "My prayers go out to her family. ... This is way too crazy. ... RIP QUEEN."

A networker who goes by "exxxoticISIS" posted that Lilly's death prompted her to remove her profile, explaining, "Queen_Sugar hit way too close to home." She then referenced another colleague: "And I really hope exoticlondon is okay."

Calling herself "Queen Sugar's protege/wifey," Exotic London posted a message thanking everyone for their condolences. Like several others who knew Lilly, she described the slain woman as "sweet."

The murder inspired a separate blog thread from someone wondering if the tight economy is causing women of the evening to forgo safety.

"It's unfortunate, but there will ALWAYS be girls who don't screen because they are desperate for the mullah at that moment (not inferring that was the case with Q_S at all)," wrote "Alexandria" of the LAX area--the "Q_S" referring to "Queen Sugar." "Although even screening up the kazzoo is not always foolproof, you could STILL end up with a sicko."

"I keep getting guys that refuse to give me just basic info on top of their "network," wrote "Tiffani Paige" of Orange County. "We need to know that YOU are, in fact, the person using your network. Understand? Please, everyone think: Today was a very tragic and sad day. Screening is for everyone's safety."

"It happens," wrote "Desiree Dash" of the Oakland area. "Especially when this is what you rely on to pay rent, bills, car note, and hotel rooms. Some ladies even have kids but nothing else to fall back on. I wouldn't judge them for it since they are trying to survive and stay afloat by any means. Some people feel they have to take chances to no longer struggle. I know some people feel they have no other choice but to take those risks. I know this is a huge wake up call for those ladies. And the ladies that don't rely on this as their only income or don't really have it hard. Truly consider yourselves lucky."

"If anything, screening should be more thorough now, because desperate people can do desperate things," wrote a customer, "fhlostonparadise" of the San Fernando Valley. ". . . Actually, dealing with someone who is being very careful actually makes me want to see her more. Because her attention to protect herself in whom she chooses to deal with, indirectly protects me."

"Bottom line is you never really know anything regardless of what checks you might think are in place," posted "latman28" of Los Angeles. "Short of having a contact at Interpol or the CIA and checking everybody based upon social security number, there is only so much you can do. For all we know it could have been an ex boyfriend, jealous wife, etc. This is a risk based business and risk based hobby for all. Certainly we should all be careful."

"Too many people on here don't take the time to just do right thing," added "hbomb" of Laguna Hills. "Too many people on here are sipping the juice of someone else. Too many people on here don't have a mind of their own. Safety issues are up in this bitch but people want to act like they are judge and jury."

A poster who identified himself as one of Lilly's recent customers even entered the debate.

"No amount of money is worth dying for," stated "BIGpapaPUMP." "God provides and in Queen Sugar's case, she was far from desperate. She had a bikini calendar coming up and was well known. She was sweet and kind but not needy. When I saw here in May, she was working with a skinny black girl. Maybe they were managed, hard to say.

". . . But whoever was at her room, they have it on film. So I pray they catch that piece of shit. And girls who do not cloak or advertise in open venues like Cityvibe and Craigslist could end up the same way. I will miss Ashley Nicole Lilly. May they find your killer so you can rest in peace."

They may have, and maybe she now can.

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