Man Accused of Being Accessory to Couple Slaying Pleas Guilty

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The second of six people accused of involvement in
the murders of a Coachella Valley couple who vanished more than four years ago
is behind bars today after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the
fact.

Manuel Rios, Eric Rios, Jesus Ruiz Jr., Abraham Fregoso Jr., Aaron
Fernando Bernal and Adilene Ines Castaneda all previously pleaded not guilty to
charges stemming from the murders of Audrey Moran, 26, and Jonathan Reynoso,
28, who disappeared on May 10, 2017.

Four of the defendants are accused in the killings, while two others
are accused of being accessories after the fact.

Ruiz, 43, who was arrested in Stockton but has spent most of his life
in the Coachella Valley, and Eric Rios, 32, of Coachella, are each charged with
two counts of being an accessory to a crime after the fact.

During a hearing at the Larson Justice Center on Tuesday, Eric Rios
pleaded guilty to his two charges, but has yet to be sentenced, according to
Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson John Hall.

Ruiz pleaded guilty to the same charges back in September and was
sentenced to two years in state prison. Due to his having been held over that
amount of time while on trial, he was released, according to Hall.

Manuel Rios, 29, of Coachella is charged with two counts of murder.
Fregoso, 33, of Indio; Bernal, 29, of Indio; and Castaneda, 28, of Coachella,
are charged with one count each of murder and being an accessory to a crime
after the fact.

Those four defendants, who all remain jailed without bail, are also
facing a special-circumstance allegation of killing a witness of a crime, which
could make them eligible for the death penalty if prosecutors opt to pursue it.

The six defendants were arrested and subsequently charged over the
summer of 2020 in connection with the couple’s slaying following a three-year
investigation that included more than 50 search warrants and hundreds of
interviews, according to Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.

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.

The sheriff’s department announced in October of 2020 that skeletal
remains discovered at an unspecified location in the Coachella Valley months
prior had been positively identified as those of Moran and Reynoso.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-02-24-2022 13:57

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