A mortuary service driver suspected of snatching a high-priced ring from the finger of a dead woman whose remains he transported from a Riverside hospital was free on his own recognizance Friday.

Mark Anthony Zuniga, 27, of Downey was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of grand theft of articles from a dead body. He was released from custody within a few hours and given a notice to appear, with a tentative court date of Feb. 23.

According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, the alleged theft occurred on Sept. 24, after the victim, identified only as “an elderly woman,” died at a Riverside hospital.

Railsback said her family arranged for her body to be taken to a mortuary in Orange County, and Zuniga was the service driver of the vehicle.

“A few days later, family members noticed a ring, valued at several thousand dollars, was missing from the decedent’s hand, and they reported the theft to the Riverside Police Department,” Railsback said. “Detectives began an investigation and were able to determine the ring had been pawned in Los Angeles County.”

Further investigation confirmed that it was Zuniga who pawned the ring, Railsback alleged.

The suspect was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday and briefly placed in the Robert Presley Jail. He was released without a bail requirement because of ongoing health and safety protocols established by the courts to reduce coronavirus exposure risks by keeping non-violent offenders out of local correctional facilities whenever possible, according to Railsback.

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