UPDATE 10/16/20 2:32 P.M.
INDIO (CNS) – Skeletal remains discovered in the Coachella Valley have been positively identified as those of two homicide victims who disappeared more than three years ago, sheriff’s officials said Friday.
Audrey Moran, 26, of Coachella, and Jonathan Reynoso, 28, of Palm Desert, were last heard from on May 10, 2017.
Sheriff Chad Bianco announced during a news conference in June that investigators had discovered what were believed to be the couple’s remains in an unspecified location in the Coachella Valley, pending confirmation through DNA testing. Bianco would not be more specific about where and when the bodies were found.
On Friday, sheriff’s officials confirmed that the DNA results came back on Wednesday as a match for the couple. The department’s announcement followed posts by the victims’ family members on social media.
“Apparently there are different stages of grief and loss, and I’ve had 3 years to find some healing, but again I find myself lost in trying to understand my emotions,” a post on the Find Audrey Moran Facebook group site reads. “Today we have received the long awaited call on DNA confirmation …our Audrey has been found.”
“It’s a match. It’s a match for Jonathan,” Mayra Torres Taylor, Reynoso’s mother, posted on the Facebook group Missing Jonathan.
A half-dozen people, who Bianco said knew the couple, are in custody in connection with their murders following a three-year investigation that included more than 50 search warrants and hundreds of interviews.
Manuel Magana Rios, 28, is charged with two counts of murder, while Abraham Fregoso Jr., 32, Adilene Ines Castaneda, 28, and Aaron Fernando Bernal, 28, are each charged with one count of murder.
The four defendants also face 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 capital punishment.
Jesus Ruiz Jr., 41, and Eric Rios, 31, are each charged with two counts of being accessories after the fact.
All six defendants have pleaded not guilty and remain in custody awaiting a scheduled felony settlement conference on Dec. 11 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Moran was last heard from when she left her 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 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.
Additional details about their murders or the subsequent investigation have not been released.
ORIGINAL 10/16/20 11:31 A.M.
According to social media posts, remains found this summer have been identified as those of missing Coachella Valley couple, Audrey Moran and Jonathan Reynoso.
The posts were written by family members of both Moran and Reynoso.
NBC Palm Springs is working to independently confirm the information with the Riverside County District Attorney.
Jonathan and Audrey were reported missing in May 2017.
On June 30, 2020 the Riverside County District Attorney, along with Riverside County Sheriff’s, announced during a press conference that after hundreds of interviews, and more than 50 search warrants, investigators were led to remains of what appeared to be Moran and Reynoso. That same day Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said DNA results had not yet come back to verify the identity of the remains, which were discovered somewhere in the Coachella Valley.
Six people were identified this summer as suspects in the case.
On June 27th Manuel Rios, age 28 of Coachella, Abraham Fregoso, age 32 of Indio, and Jesus Ruiz Jr., age 41 of Stockton, were arrested for Murder.
On July 22nd Aaron Fernando Bernal, age 28, of Indio was arrested for Murder and Eric Rios, age 31, of Coachella was arrested for Accessory to a Murder.
Also on July 22nd, investigators added Murder charges to Adilene Ines Castaneda, age 27, of Coachella who had been in Riverside County custody since February 5th, 2020 for an unrelated narcotics investigation.
According to Riverside County jail records, all suspects are scheduled to be in court on December 11, 2020.
This story is breaking and will be updated. Stay with NBC Palm Springs for more information.