UPDATE NO. 3, JAN. 20, 4:05 P.M.: Christopher Ken Ireland pleaded not guilty at his arraignment today, when he faced two felony counts of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, one felony count of arson of an inhabited property, and one felony count of aggravated mayhem that—at a minimum—will send him to prison for life without the possibility of parole if he is convicted.
The Orange County District Attorney's office also provided more details about the grisly killings blamed on the 37-year-old real estate agent.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2017, Ireland is accused of attending a New Year's Eve party at 59-year-old Yolanda Holtrey's home in Westminster. At approximately 1:20 a.m., with his family waiting outside, the defendant is accused of murdering both Holtrey and her friend, 49-year-old Michelle Luke, inside the home by striking them each multiple times with a sharp instrument. Ireland is accused of disfiguring Luke's ear during the attack.
The defendant is accused of leaving the victims' bodies in the home and driving away from the scene. At approximately 3:00 a.m., Ireland is accused of returning to the home and lining his vehicle's trunk. The defendant is then accused of dragging Holtrey and Luke's bodies from the home to his trunk shortly before 4:30 a.m. Ireland is accused of using an accelerant to set fire to Holtrey's home before driving away from the scene at approximately 5:00 a.m. The defendant is accused of driving to a dead-end road in Newport Beach and discarding the victims' bodies in a vacant lot.
At approximately 5:30 a.m., neighbors called 911 to report the house fire. First responders put out the fire and noticed blood on some furniture and the floor inside the home. Accelerants were also located, prompting Orange County Fire Authority arson investigators and Westminster Police Department (WPD) to investigate the suspicious circumstances. Officers were not able to locate the homeowner or Luke.
Ireland, who is being held without bail, is due back in Westminster court Feb. 16 for a pre-trial hearing.
UPDATE NO. 2, JAN. 4, 2:56 P.M.: Christopher Ken Ireland
is scheduled to be arraigned had his arraignment continued today to Jan. 20 on four felony counts: two charges of first-degree murder, one of arson and another of aggravated mayhem for intentionally causing “permanent disability, disfigurement, and deprivation of a limb, organ, and body member” of one of his alleged two victims, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office. It still has not been revealed how the 37-year-old is alleged to have killed Yolanda Holtrey, 59, of Westminster, and her friend friend, Michelle Luke, 49, of Huntington Beach, only that after supposedly slaying them he dumped their bodies in Newport Beach and set fire to Holtrey's house to destroy evidence. Ireland will remain in Orange County Jail without bail at least until his court date.
UPDATE NO. 1, JAN. 3, 12:53 P.M.: A man may have been sleepwalking the night he allegedly killed two women, dumped their bodies in Newport Beach and possibly set fire to the Westminster home of one victim to cover up the murders, according to the suspect's wife.
Michelle Luke, 49, was the woman who was killed along with her friend Yolanda Holtrey, according to Samantha Ireland, who worked with the women at Stein Mart in Huntington Beach and is the wife of the man accused of killing them. Christopher Ireland's wife has provided the media with more details about her husband and his relationship to the dead women. The 37-year-old suspect was licensed as a real estate agent in August, is facing no disciplinary actions by state real estate regulators and was working with Realty One Group in Rancho Cucamonga, where he was helping Holtrey sell her Westminster home. "I don't know any Realtors that would kill their clients," Samantha Ireland reportedly told NBCLA. "That's stupid—why would he do that?" The suspect's wife added that she and her husband attended a New Year's Eve party at Holtrey's home and had a good time. "There were no fights, [no] arguments," she said, adding that after the couple left the party and returned to their Huntington Beach home, she did not recall Christopher leaving again afterward. "He doesn't remember anything," Samantha said of the lone suspect in the killings of Holtrey and Luke. He was arrested after he arrived with his wife to supposedly help Holtrey with the fire at her home. But Westminster homicide detectives are investigating whether Christopher Ireland set the fire to cover up the murders. He was apparently linked to the crimes through neighborhood surveillance video. Ireland, who has had no prior run-ins with law enforcement in Westminster, was being held without bail in Orange County Jail heading into his scheduled arraignment Wednesday.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 3, 6:15 A.M.: A Huntington Beach man is facing two murder counts this morning in the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in Newport Beach on Monday.
The Westminster home of one of the women, 59-year-old Yolanda Holtrey, was the scene of a suspicious New Year's Day fire.
That was actually what started the chain of events that led to the arrest of 37-year-old Christopher Ireland.
The Westminster Police Department and Orange County Fire Authority responded to Sunday's 5:30 a.m fire in the 5000 block of Northwestern Way.
When Holtrey and her friend, identified only as a 49-year-old Huntington Beach woman, were not found at the home, a homicide investigation was launched, according to police.
The bodies of the women were found Monday morning in the brush near the Pavilions shopping center on San Miguel and Bonita Canyon roads in Newport Beach, police say.
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How that led police to Ireland is not yet known; no other suspects being sought for the deaths, officers say.
A possible motive for the slayings and Ireland's relationship to the women also have not be released.
Identification by the coroner of the second woman was pending notification of next of kin at press time.
Anyone with information that can help in the investigation is asked to contact Westminster Police Det. Wilson at 714.898.3315. Anonymous tips can be left with Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1.855.TIP.OCCS or by visiting occrimestoppers.org.