Murder charges were filed Tuesday against two men accused of killing a Coachella Valley couple who went missing more than three years ago, and a third person was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Manuel Rios, 28, of Coachella, and Abraham Fregoso Jr., 32, of Indio, also face a special circumstance allegation of killing a witness to a crime, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
During a news conference in Palm Desert, officials said hundreds of interviews and more than 50 search warrants led to the recovery of what appears to be the bodies of Audrey Moran, 26, and Jonathan Reynoso, 28, who disappeared on May 10, 2017.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said DNA results have not yet come back to verify the identity of the remains, which were discovered somewhere in the Coachella Valley recently.
“The investigation that led us to the remains indicates we did find them,” Bianco told reporters, but would not be more specific about where and when the bodies were found.
Rios, Fregoso and a third man, Jesus Ruiz Jr., 41, of Coachella, were arrested last weekend in connection with the couple’s disappearance.
Ruiz is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in Banning, while Rios and Fregoso Jr. are expected to be arraigned the following day, according to Riverside Superior Court spokeswoman Marita Ford.
Rios is charged with two counts of murder, and Fregoso is charged with one court of murder. Both face a special circumstance allegation of killing a witness of a crime, which make the defendants eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted, although Hestrin said a decision on whether to seek capital punishment has not yet been made.
Ruiz Jr. is charged with two counts of being an accessory to murder after the fact.
Bianco deflected most of the questions posed by reporters, citing the ongoing investigation. He declined to discuss a motive for the killings, but confirmed the witness referred to in the charges reflected one of the victims — which one was not revealed.
Hestrin said he was “very confident” that the charges against the three men were warranted.
Moran was last heard from when she left her Coachella home to pick up Reynoso, who may have been returning to the Coachella Valley from the Brawley area the day the couple went missing, according to investigators.
Moran said she was going to give Reynoso a ride to his Palm Desert home, but the SUV she drove was found parked on the side of Interstate 10 in Beaumont two days after the pair were last heard from.
A police bloodhound detected their scent near the SUV, but the trail disappeared about 50 feet from the vehicle.
Authorities said the investigation is ongoing, and urged anybody with additional information to call the department’s missing persons tip line at 760-393-3544.
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