The landlord of a detached garage in the 1000 block of North Jackson Street in Santa Ana made a grisly discovery on Thursday: a decomposed human body.
Police were not ready to label it a homicide as detectives did not know the cause of death. Actually, they still don't. More on that in a bit.
What investigators did learn was that a couple had been renting the garage before moving out about three months ago. They reside in a different garage in Garden Grove now.
The couple's story is … well … not exactly something you'll see on the Hallmark Channel this Christmas season.
They said they were the caretakers for Ricarda Reyes-Villalobos, a relative they figured to be about 50, according to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the Santa Ana Police spokesman.
Ricarda passed away some time in August 2014, the couple told detectives, but they did not report the death because of their immigration status, Bertagna said.
So, they left her in the frig, which was among some property they left behind, with the intention of returning to retrieve Ricarda and the rest of their stuff “when they had the sufficient funds to do so,” Bertagna said.
The Orange County coroner performed an autopsy on Tuesday and found no signs of trauma that would indicate the woman's cause of death, said Bertagna, who added the official cause of death is pending a toxicology report.
“Once the investigation is complete, SAPD detectives will submit the case to the Orange County District Attorney for any possible criminal filing,” he said.
Detectives will be working with Mexican authorities in an attempt to properly identify the deceased, Bertagna said.