INDIO (CNS) – Felony charges were filed Thursday against three people who are accused along with three previously charged suspects in the killings of a Coachella Valley couple who were reported missing three years ago.
Aaron Fernando Bernal, 28, of Indio, and Coachella residents Adilene Ines Castaneda, 27, and Eric Rios, 31, were arrested Tuesday for the killings of Audrey Moran, 26, and Jonathan Reynoso, 28, who disappeared May 10, 2017.
Bernal and Castaneda were each charged with one count of murder and accessory after the fact. They are also facing a special-circumstance allegation of killing a witness of a crime, which could make them eligible for the death penalty if convicted, and if prosecutors opt to pursue it.
Rios was charged with two counts of being accessory to murder after the fact.
The three defendants remain behind bars awaiting arraignment, scheduled Monday for Castaneda and Rios, and Friday for Bernal, court records show.
The trio were arrested after homicide investigators continued “working and processing investigative leads” in the case, but additional information was not provided. They join three other men previously charged in the killings — Manuel Rios, 28, Abraham Fregoso Jr., 32, and Jesus Ruiz Jr., 41 — all arrested last month stemming from a three-year investigation that included more than 50 search warrants and hundreds of interviews.
Sheriff Chad Bianco said at the time that investigators had discovered what were believed to be the couple’s remains somewhere in the Coachella Valley. He said the DNA results, however, were pending. Bianco would not be more specific about where and when the bodies were found and offered few details about the investigation.
Sheriff’s officials on Wednesday said an update on the DNA results was still not available.
Manuel Rios is charged with two counts of murder. It was not immediately clear if he and Eric Rios are related. Fregoso is charged with one count of murder, and both defendants are also facing a special-circumstance allegation of killing a witness of a crime.
Ruiz is charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact, although his role in the alleged murders has not been disclosed.
Bianco said last month that the victims were known to their alleged killers but would not comment further.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said last month he was “very confident” that the charges against the three men were warranted.
Moran was last heard from when she left her Coachella home to pick up Reynoso, who may have been returning to the Coachella Valley from the Brawley area the day the couple went missing, according to investigators.
Moran said she was going to give Reynoso a ride to his Palm Desert home, but the SUV she drove was found parked on the side of Interstate 10 in Beaumont two days after the pair were last heard from.
A police bloodhound detected their scent near the SUV, but the trail disappeared about 50 feet from the vehicle, authorities said.