LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Southern California woman has been charged with murder after police found her wheeling around a trash barrel filled with dirt and the partial remains of her slain boyfriend, authorities said on Thursday.
The rest of the victim’s dismembered body was found later in the week, and miles away, concealed inside two flower pots, and police subsequently arrested the woman’s adult son and daughter on suspicion of trying to help dispose of the corpse.
The principal suspect, Carmen Montenegro, 51, was arrested on Sunday outside her home in Ontario, east of Los Angeles, by police answering calls from neighbors who reported seeing her pushing a wheeled trash bin that smelled of decaying flesh along the sidewalk.
Deputy District Attorney Erica Gallegos, the San Bernardino County prosecutor assigned the case, said suspicions were initially aroused by the stench emanating from the container.
She said police found the torso and two legs of an adult male, all separated from each other, immersed in soil inside the trash can. Montenegro was formally charged with one count of murder on Tuesday.
Acting on an anonymous tip on Wednesday, police detectives recovered a man’s severed head and two arms buried in two large flower pots at a home in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens.
Later that day, the San Bernardino County coroner confirmed that all the remains belonged to Samuel Wiggins Jr., 63, who investigators believe was slain at his own home in the city of Diamond Bar, located between Ontario and Bell Gardens.
Authorities have yet to say how Wiggins was killed or dismembered. But Gallegos told Reuters that investigators believe he was slain a short time after he was reported missing by relatives in early May.
The prosecutor said Wiggins and Montenegro had a “dating relationship” before he was killed, but investigators were still piecing together circumstances of the murder.
“We do not currently have a motive,” Gallegos said of the killing. “We are investigating several avenues, one of them being money, but we don’t have enough information to say if that’s the motive.”
Montenegro’s son and daughter, Daniel Ortiz, 25, and Chanel Ortiz, 26, were arrested Wednesday evening during a traffic stop and were booked as suspected accessories to murder, police said.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune