A 23-year-old Orange man has been charged with the murders of three men whose burned bodies were found in an SUV ablaze in a quiet Orange neighborhood and a fourth man whose body was found in the back seat of a car in Fontana.
Alejandro Guerrero Ruiz, who is awaiting extradition proceedings in Texas, where he is being held on a separate matter, faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery, according to Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons.
Those allegations would make it possible to seek the death penalty, Simmons noted.
Speaking with City News Service, the prosecutor declined to comment further on the nature of Ruiz’s arrest in Texas or the motive for the Southern California murders, except to mention “drugs were definitely involved.”
Simmons’ office released a statement saying no further information is being released at this time, nor is a booking photo of Ruiz.
Orange Police Lt. Fred Lopez said at the time his dispatchers received a call about a vehicle fire at 2:18 p.m. Monday, Nov.. 9, in the 500 block of East Oakmont Avenue, near Shaffer Street and Orange High School. Witnesses at the scene said the driver was seen running away from the black, full-size GMC SUV as it caught fire and rolled to a stop in the driveway of a yellow house. The bodies of three men were pulled out.
There was a license plate on the GMC that was legible so investigators quickly discovered the SUV had not been reported stolen, Orange Police Sgt. Phil McMullen said at the time.
Also on Nov. 9, 19-year-old Antonio Medina of Glendale, Arizona, and 20-year-old Fernando Meza of Phoenix were reported missing, according to a Facebook page titled “Searching for Fernando Meza and Antonio Medina.” The Orange County coroner later identified them as two men found in the back seat of the flamed-out SUV.
The Orange Police Department previously said the third dead man, who was in the front right passenger seat, was an Orange resident in his late 20s. He was later identified as 26-year- old Edgar Berrelleza-Soto, whose 35-year-old brother, Joel Mauricio Berrelleza of Orange, had been found dead (but not burned) in the back seat of a car in Fontana on Nov. 15, Simmons said.
The date of all four murders was listed as Nov. 9 in an arrest warrant attached to the criminal complaint, City News Service reports. Simmons, who believes all four victims were shot to death, said the special circumstance allegation of murder during a robbery applies to all four.
He declined to say whether Ruiz was the driver who bolted out of the SUV.
The OCDA says the investigation is ongoing.