A female body found inside a refrigerator in a Santa Ana, Calif., home was left there by her caregivers, a pair of undocumented immigrants who didn’t report her death for over a year because they feared deportation.
Police say the couple, who had moved out about three months ago, identified the deceased as Mexican national Ricarda Reyes-Villalobos. They said she was also their relative, but their exact relationship has not been disclosed.
Police say the two lived with the dead body in the apartment for about a year. Reyes-Villalobos’ remains were finally find by authorities almost a year and a half after her death.
Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the Santa Ana Police spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times the couple rented and lived in a detached garage on the property.
Reyes, who police believe was in her 50s at the time of her death, was found by a landlord last Thursday after he smelled a strong odor emanating from the unit.
According to the couple, Reyes passed away in August 2014. They said they placed her in the refrigerator because they were afraid of immigration authorities showing up if they contacted police. They also said they didn’t have enough money to give her a proper burial.
“The couple told detectives they did not report the death to authorities because of their immigration status,” according to a police statement. “They stated they planned on returning to the residence for their property when they had the sufficient funds to do so.”
The names of the couple have not been disclosed. Santa Ana police detectives said they are working with Mexican authorities to properly identify the deceased.
An autopsy by the Orange County Coroner’s office found no signs of trauma, the Times reported, and the results of a toxicology report are pending.