5 arrested in killings of 6 people near remote California desert community


EL MIRAGE, Calif. — Five people were arrested in connection with the fatal shootings of six people in a remote desert community in California, authorities said Monday.

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During a news conference, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrests of California residents Toniel Baez-Duarte, 34, of Apple Valley; Mateo Baez-Duarte, 24, of Apple Valley; Jose Nicolas Hernandez-Sarabia, 33, of Adelanto; Jose Gregorio Hernandez-Sarabia, 34, of Adelanto; and Jose Manuel Burgos Parra, 26, of Adelanto.

Investigators said the victims’ deaths were connected to a dispute over marijuana, KABC-TV reported.

“For all intents and purposes, it looks like illicit marijuana was the guiding force behind these murders,” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus told reporters during a news conference.

Officials said all five suspects were being held without bail, KABC reported. That is pending a review of potential charges by the district attorney’s office.

“The moment we started this investigation, we started to receive strong leads,” Dicus said.

Four of the six victims have been identified, the Los Angeles Times reported. The name of a 45-year-old man is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification. Two of the victims have yet to be identified, according to the newspaper.

Victims who have been identified are Baldemar Mondragon-Albarran, 34; Franklin Noel Bonilla, 22; and Kevin Dariel Bonilla, 25, the Times reported.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office last week, deputies responded at 8:16 p.m. PST on Jan. 23 to a remote area of the Mojave Desert near the unincorporated community of El Mirage for a wellness check.

Investigators say they don’t believe there are additional suspects. Eight firearms were recovered and were being tested to see if they match the weapons used against the six victims.

Deputies arriving at the scene, located 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles, initially discovered five bodies, the Times reported. During a news conference, Mara Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said a sixth body was located in the same area on the morning of Jan. 24, according to KTTV.

Two vehicles were also found at the scene, Rodriguez told reporters. At least one of the SUVs had bullet holes in its windows, KTTV reported.

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