Pair accused in armed break-in of Palm Springs senior’s home must stand trial

City News Service

A parolee and a woman, who allegedly broke into a Palm Springs residence where she once worked as an aide, assaulted the 78-year-old resident and forcibly restrained the homeowner and her caretaker prior to ransacking the home for valuables, must stand trial on several felony charges, a judge ruled Thursday.

Indio residents Juan Antonio Beltran, 25, and Itati Maribi Ceja, 24, were arrested in November 2018 at the scene of the alleged break-in.

Following a preliminary hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Riverside County Superior Court Judge James S. Hawkins ruled that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for both defendants to proceed to trial on burglary, robbery, kidnapping and elder abuse charges.

Beltran also faces a felony charge of witness intimidation, and sentence-enhancing allegation that the offense was committed with a firearm.

The prosecution on its own motion opted not to pursue a charge of false imprisonment of a hostage against both defendants, and a charge of criminal threats against Beltran.

Hawkins kept Beltran’s bail at $1 million and Ceja’s at $100,000. Both defendants remain in custody, with a post-preliminary hearing arraignment scheduled for May 27.

Officers were sent about 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2018, to the 2200 block of South Sunshine Circle following a 911 call from the location, according to the Palm Springs Police Department.

Randall Bailey testified Thursday that he was working as a caretaker at Carolyn Auburn’s house that night. He said they were dozing off in the family room when a man busted in the home, and forced him into another room and tied him up.

Bailey testified that the man, later identified as Beltran, had “what appeared to be a gun.” He said Beltran took his wallet and asked him “where’s the gold?”

Police allege Auburn, who has dementia, was tied up, gagged and assaulted during this time, although Bailey testified he was in the other room and did not witness it.

Officer Johnathan Mosley testified that a nurse later said Auburn suffered facial swelling and bruising, and lost two teeth. She was also vomiting blood, Mosley said.

No gun was recovered, although police reported finding ammunition in Ceja’s car near the location, Officer Mario Kasal testified.

Bailey was employed by Home Instead, a Palm Desert-based senior care agency, at the time of the break-in.

Palm Springs police Officer Barron Lane testified that Ceja was also employed by the same senior care agency before she was fired the day before the break-in. She worked for Auburn for two weeks before she was removed from the account at Auburn’s request due to performance issues, he said.

Bailey testified that he was eventually able to free himself and call 911. Police responded in force, surrounding the house, and the defendants were arrested after allegedly attempting to flee out the back door.

They would later claim in interviews with police that they were chased to the location, where they were let inside by Bailey, although Ceja allegedly later changed her story and admitted the robbery was her idea. “All of it was me,” Kasal said Ceja told him.

Beltran has prior felony convictions including burglary and evading arrest.

Despite Ceja having no prior felony convictions in Riverside County, she is currently also facing a murder charge. She is one of three defendants charged in the shooting death of Jason Diaz, who was found on the sidewalk in front of a home in Indio on June 24, 2020. She has pleaded not guilty in that case.

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