DA Says Money Was Motive in Calif. Trash Can Body Case
LOS ANGELES -- A Southern California woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend and pushing his body parts down the street in a trash can might have acted for financial gain in a case rapidly expanding across three counties, an official said Thursday.
Investigators have surveillance video showing Carmen Montenegro, 51, using credit and ATM cards belonging to the victim, Samuel Wiggins Jr., after he disappeared on April 20, said David Hidalgo, supervisor of the San Bernardino County district attorney's family violence unit. Montenegro also used the 63-year-old Wiggins' car in the days after his disappearance, he said.
Montenegro also told police that she had been sexually abused and authorities are also considering that as a possible motive, Hidalgo said.
Her public defender, Rebecca Taft, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Montenegro has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder and is being held on $1 million bail.
Authorities said she also has a criminal history under the name Carmen Montelongo, but charging documents in the current case list her last name as Montenegro.
She was arrested Sunday at a house in Ontario, a San Bernardino County city 40 miles east of Los Angeles, after neighbors called police to say a woman was dragging what appeared to be body parts down the street in a 30-gallon trash bin.
Police found a torso and legs at the address, which was the home of some of Montenegro's relatives, and later discovered a head and arms in two large flower pots that Montenegro and her son delivered on Mother's Day to another relative's address in Bell Gardens, near Los Angeles.
The body parts all have been identified as Wiggins' and an autopsy was under way Thursday to determine how Wiggins was killed, authorities said.
Montenegro's two adult children were arrested late Wednesday on suspicion of helping their mother dispose of the remains.
Daniel Ortiz, 25, and Chanel Alicia Ortiz, 26, both of Riverside, were stopped in Rancho Cucamonga and could be charged as early as Friday, Hidalgo said.
The children remained jailed Thursday and it was not immediately clear if they had retained attorneys.
"It's hard to comprehend that someone could be so callous and pushing body parts down the street in a trash can like it was nothing," Hidalgo said. "She was desperate and she was looking for people to help her dispose of the body."
Authorities believe Montenegro killed Wiggins at his home in Diamond Bar, in Los Angeles County, and then transported the remains to her relative's home in Ontario, where she buried the body parts. She dug several deep holes and told relatives she was re-doing the garden, Hidalgo said.
Investigators have also discovered carpet at a home in Riverside where Montenegro was renting storage space, Hidalgo said. The carpet was in a large cardboard box that was used to deliver a sofa and is believed to have come from the victim's house, he said.
At some point, Montenegro uncovered the body and put the head and arms in flower pots that were delivered to the Bell Gardens address, he said.
A family member of Montenegro's, Matthew Bell, told the San Bernardino Sun that he saw Montenegro in a hole in the backyard of his grandmother's house on Sunday. He said he also saw her throw body parts in the trash can and that she offered him $5,000 to help dispose of the remains.
Bell said he instead went to call police and that Montenegro followed him with the trash can, still pleading for help.
She was arrested about 200 yards from the home.