A Jurupa Valley man accused of killing his 40-year-old cousin, possibly during a dispute over a mutual love interest, then setting the victim’s remains afire, must stand trial for murder, while the man who allegedly helped try to cover up the crime must stand trial for a lesser offense, a judge ruled Wednesday.
August Nielsen III, 38, and Adrian Daniel Chaffino, 24, were arrested last year following a Riverside County sheriff’s homicide investigation into the slaying of Michael Daniel Reynoso in Jurupa Valley.
At the end of a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for Nielsen on the murder count, as well as sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations, while the judge additionally determined there was evidence to support trying Chaffino for being an accessory after the fact.
Fisher scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for the pair on Aug. 9.
Nielsen is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. Chaffino is free on a $5,000 bond.
Nielsen was captured in Phoenix last Oct. 4 following a nationwide manhunt.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Wally Clear, on the morning of May 8, 2018, a travel trailer was set aflame near the intersection of Clay Street and Van Buren Boulevard. Firefighters quickly doused the blaze and discovered Reynoso’s charred remains inside.
Confirming the victim’s identity took several months, but after detectives learned Reynoso was the person killed, they turned their attention to his cousin, Nielsen.
According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Nielsen allegedly shot the victim during an argument, likely stemming from the defendant’s jealousy over a woman whom Reynoso was seeing, though the circumstances remain unclear.
Detectives found witnesses and evidence allegedly tying Nielsen to the killing. According to prosecutors, the defendant and Chaffino were friends, and the latter was allegedly recruited into assisting Nielsen with moving the body to where it was set on fire.
Chaffino was arrested without incident at his residence on Rorimer Drive in August.
He has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County. Nielsen has a prior misdemeanor conviction for making criminal threats, according to court records.
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