Parolee Named 'Person of Interest' in Death of Woman Found in Minivan

A parolee was named a "person of interest" Tuesday in the stabbing death of a woman whose body was found in a minivan by family members who were called by police to pick up the vehicle.

Joseph Gary Orta, 34, was questioned in the killing of Eileen Ponce-Orta, 22, who was found fatally stabbed in the neck on Saturday, police said.

Police did not disclose the relationship between the two. Ponce-Orta's uncle, Daniel Suarez, said Orta was staying with the victim and her husband after he was released from prison.

Relatives who had reported Ponce-Orta missing on Valentine's Day were called several days later by police telling them her minivan was illegally parked in a lot near the police station. Police told them to pick up the vehicle before it was impounded.

Ponce-Orta's mother said that when she checked the van she discovered her daughter's body buried under blankets, clothing and other objects

She said she was angry no one checked inside the van before releasing it to her.

Pomona police Chief Joe Romero said his department has launched an investigation into the action of the officer who found the vehicle.

He said the officer ran a check of the van's license plate and learned it was related to a missing person's report filed in Covina. The officer called Covina police and was told to release the van to the family or it would be impounded, Romero said.

"By protocol, under the circumstances the officer worked under a set of information that made him decide that doing a cursory look from outside the van was sufficient," Romero said. "As we know now, it wasn't."

The victim's family disagreed, saying that police knew Ponce-Orta was missing and should have conducted a thorough search of the van.