RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A man accused of killing his 33-year-old girlfriend, whose remains are the subject of an ongoing search in southwest Riverside County, must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled Friday.
Hugo Lionel Hernandez, 45, of Oceanside was arrested just over a year ago following a months-long Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the death of Katherine Mary Neitzke of Romoland.
At the end of a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice Friday, Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for murder.
The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for March 24 and left Hernandez’s bail set at $1 million.
The defendant is being held at the Robert Presley Jail in downtown Riverside.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Brosche, Neitzke disappeared from her Mapes Road residence in the unincorporated community of Romoland, south of Perris, on July 26, 2019.
Initially, detectives treated the case as a missing person investigation, but by the summer of 2021, they turned their attention to Hernandez, the victim’s boyfriend, who soon became the focus of a homicide investigation, Brosche said.
He said that after additional, undisclosed, evidence was uncovered, detectives presented their case to the District Attorney’s Office, culminating in a criminal complaint alleging murder in January 2022.
The whereabouts of Neitzke’s remains remain unknown, but detectives believe the body may have been dumped somewhere along the Ortega (74) Highway.
A possible motive and details regarding the way in which the alleged killing occurred were not provided.
A second defendant, Avena “Eddie” Edilberto, was charged as an accessory after the fact. She pleaded guilty to the felony count prior to the start of the preliminary hearing.
Edilberto, who is free on a $50,000 bond, is slated to be sentenced on Sept. 29.
Hernandez has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County, and neither does Edilberto.
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