Tijuana authorities say they have discovered a fifth body in a home where a Garden Grove couple with dual citizenship was found buried.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office for the state of Baja California, just south of San Diego, confirmed late Monday that a fifth body was discovered by a canine search team earlier in the afternoon.
On Saturday, authorities had announced that a second set of bodies — besides those of the missing Orange County couple found earlier — was discovered in an advanced state of decomposition in the same home in Colonia Obrera.
The first four bodies discovered were wrapped in plastic and covered in lime, prosecutors said at a hearing Sunday evening.
Mexican authorities said a man identified only as Santiago N. killed his mother-in-law and father-in-law in a dispute over rent money and then buried them in the Colonia Obrera home, one of their properties, where the man had lived for the last seven years.
The defendant had been deported from the United States in 2012 for robbery, prosecutors said Sunday.
Maria Teresa López Guillén, 65, and her husband, Jesús Rubén López Guillén, 70, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on Jan. 10 to pick up the equivalent of about $6,400 in rent for apartments they owned and rented out in Tijuana. Their son-in-law had been collecting the money from tenants for them, prosecutors said Sunday night.
From Orange County, their daughter, Norma Lopez, reported them missing the next day. She told Garden Grove police that she had been tracking her parents’ movements using a phone-locator app, which showed the couple had entered their property in Colonia Obrera the day before and had not left, Tijuana prosecutors said Sunday night.
When questioned, Santiago N. told police that he had dropped the couple off at the El Chaparral border crossing and that they had returned to the United States on foot. But WhatsApp messages showed that, rather than dropping them off, he was insisting the couple drive their green Toyota Tacoma truck back across the border, authorities said.
U.S. border authorities, however, checked and found no record of the couple crossing back into San Ysidro, a border community in south San Diego, Baja California prosecutors said.
On Sunday night, a judge in Baja California ordered that Santiago N. remain in police custody while the state’s attorney general’s office continued to investigate. They were working to gather evidence to charge him in the missing couple’s death, as well as in the deaths of any others discovered buried on the property where he was living.
The judge ruled Santiago N. would remain in jail on “forced disappearance” charges in the disappearance of the Garden Grove couple. Prosecutors also said the defendant misled investigators and refused to cooperate in their investigation. He delayed entering a plea.
On Monday, police were still searching the home, which is south of downtown Tijuana and about four miles south of the border. The second set of bodies found after those of the Garden Grove couple were a male and female.
Authorities said the five bodies were found beneath a dirt floor in a room in the home. There was sand and mud on the corpses and a white powder, which authorities have now confirmed to be lime.
Fire department excavators and a canine agent named Mamba were instrumental in finding the newly discovered bodies.
The Baja California attorney general’s office said in statements that it continued to investigate “in order to clarify the facts of the report of disappearance and homicide” of the Guilléns, to identify the other bodies and their cause of death, and potentially to charge Santiago N. with more crimes.
Fry writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.