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Woman accused of sawing up ex-boyfriend’s body, hiding head and arms in flower pots

It began with a foul-smelling trash can Carmen Montenegro was wheeling down an Ontario street.

She reportedly abandoned it a block from her cousin’s home Sunday afternoon when neighbors reported seeing a woman trying to dispose of the bin’s suspicious contents.

Inside the 30-gallon container, police officers said they discovered the dismembered body of a man, minus the arms and head.

Investigators said they later determined the body of Montenegro’s former boyfriend had been sawed into pieces, with the head placed in a flower pot and the arms in another.

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The flower pots were filled with potting soil and taken to a relative’s home in Bell Gardens around Mother’s Day, said David Hidalgo, a San Bernardino County supervising deputy district attorney.

Hidalgo said Montenegro buried the other remains in the backyard of her cousin’s Ontario home, but the arms and head were taken farther away because they could be used to identify the victim.

Investigators said something must have spooked Montenegro, prompting her attempt to move the body on Sunday. Ontario neighbors, who called police Sunday, had noticed someone busily gardening at the Holmes Avenue property during the previous weeks.

Montenegro’s former boyfriend, Samuel Wiggins Jr., 63, had been reported missing May 1.

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There was no sign of Wiggins at the Diamond Bar home he once shared with Montenegro. She, however, had been seen coming and going. His relatives began looking for Montenegro to ask her about Wiggins.

Then on Sunday, Montenegro was seen with the garbage can. She was arrested and has been charged with murder.

Wiggins’ relatives feared the worst — that he was dead.

The body in the trash can was so badly cut up that investigators had to get a DNA swab from one of Wiggins’ relatives to identify the remains as those of the former aerospace worker and Navy veteran.

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Inside Wiggins’ home Tuesday, detectives found that a carpet had been recently replaced with one that looked just like the original. Investigators found the old carpet inside a Riverside home Montenegro had been living in, prosecutors said.

“We’re testing it, but we believe it will show the Diamond Bar home is where the murder occurred,” Hidalgo said.

Blood was found underneath the new carpet in the Diamond Bar home. How Wiggins died is being determined. San Bernardino County coroners conducted an autopsy Thursday, but results were pending.

Investigators say Montenegro’s two adult children helped her dispose of Wiggins’ body. Daniel Ortiz, 25, and Chanel Ortiz, 26, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of being accessories to murder. Chanel Ortiz, according to Wiggins’ relatives, once lived in the Diamond Bar home.

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Prosecutors said the motive for the slaying may have been financial. After Wiggins was reported missing, Montenegro used his car and his ATM card, his family members said.

Wiggins had several bank accounts, and according to a relative, his money market accounts were emptied around the time he disappeared.

Montenegro, whose legal name is Montelongo, made a brief appearance Thursday in a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom, but her arraignment was delayed. She was being held on $1 million bail.

richard.winton@latimes.com


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