A 20-year-old woman who allegedly joined two young men in robbing and killing a Riverside man in his apartment must stand trial for first-degree murder, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Merlin Perales Ortiz of Yucca Valley was arrested in December 2020 following a Riverside Police Department investigation into the slaying of 20-year-old Wesley Flores Miranda.

After a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Samuel Diaz found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the murder count and a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a robbery.

Diaz scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Feb. 2 and ordered Ortiz to remain held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

Ortiz’s co-defendants, Isaiah Israel Rodriguez and Cristian Alejandro Runkle, both 18, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder. In addition to murder, Rodriguez admitted a sentence-enhancing gun use allegation. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Runkle was sentenced to 15 years to life.

According to Riverside police, on the night of Nov. 8, 2020, the defendants went to Miranda’s apartment in the 5200 block of El Cerrito Drive in the Canyon Crest neighborhood of south Riverside and confronted the victim at gunpoint.

During the holdup, Miranda was shot several times in the upper body, according to police.

The trio fled with an undisclosed amount of cash and other valuables, investigators alleged. Paramedics arrived a short time later and pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

Four weeks of collecting evidence culminated in detectives identifying the defendants, all of whom were taken into custody without incident in San Bernardino County.

Court records show Ortiz has no documented prior felony or misdemeanor convictions in Riverside County. Background information on her co-defendants was not available.

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