2 suspects arrested in death of California teen, 1 caught after police chase
Written by ABC Audio. All rights reserved. on November 28, 2023
(MADERA, Calif.) — A California teenager missing since last week was found dead in an orchard and two suspects have been arrested in her slaying, including her ex-boyfriend who was caught after allegedly leading police on a chase, according to authorities.
The remains of 19-year-old Melanie Stephanie Rios Camacho were located in an orchard in an agricultural area of Madera County in Central California on Monday and positively identified as the missing woman, according to Madera County Sheriff’s Department.
The discovery of the remains came after Camacho’s mother reported her missing on Friday when she didn’t return home Thursday night, according to the sheriff’s department.
“To the family of Melanie, we are deeply sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, especially as we approach Melanie’s 20th birthday, which would’ve been this Friday,” Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue said during a news conference Monday.
Camacho, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office, was last seen alive around 10:15 p.m. local time on Thursday, when she left her job at an Auto Zone in the city of Madera, according to the sheriff’s office.
The teenager’s mother told police she received a text message from her around 11 p.m. Thursday and that her daughter said she was planning to meet a friend after work, the sheriff’s office said.
When detectives contacted the friend Camacho was supposed to join, they learned the teenager never met that night, according to authorities. Instead, the friend told detectives that Camacho was planning to meet with an ex-boyfriend to either give or receive something from him, the sheriff’s office said.
Around 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call of a car fire on the outskirts of Madera. Sheriff’s officials said the vehicle, a 2014 white Nissan Altima, belonged to Camacho.
While investigating the fire, police encountered a witness who described seeing a blue Ford Mustang in the area. The driver appeared to pick someone up near the burning car and drive away, according to the sheriff’s office.
Detectives obtained security video from the area where the car was torched and noticed a 2018 blue Ford Mustang in the footage at the time of the fire, the sheriff’s office said.
“The witness witnessed a blue Ford Mustang with a black hood pass his location on the street with one person inside, turn around near the vehicle that was on fire and then return to his location with two persons inside,” Pogue said.
The registered owner of the Mustang, 22-year-old Jose Lopez Hernandez of Madera, was contacted for questioning Sunday night and detectives obtained a search warrant for his home, according to authorities.
“Information obtained during the service of the warrant led detectives to an area of Avenue 20 west of Highway 99. There, they discovered human remains believed to belong to Melanie,” according to the sheriff’s office statement.
Sheriff’s officials did not disclose the manner of Camacho’s death.
During the investigation, detectives identified 24-year-old Vicente Alexandro Jasso, the ex-boyfriend Camacho recently broke up with, “as the primary suspect in Melanie’s death,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Around 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, sheriff deputies spotted Jasso in Madera driving a minivan registered to him, but when they attempted to pull the suspect over, he allegedly led them on a three-city chase, the sheriff’s office said. California Highway Patrol officers involved in the chase eventually blew out the suspect’s car tires with a spike strip they placed in its path.
Jasso allegedly got out of the minivan and ran to a nearby neighborhood, where he was tracked down with the help of a law enforcement helicopter crew and arrested.
Joe Madril told ABC station KFSN in Fresno that the suspect was captured in his yard.
“I heard a helicopter outside. So, I went outside, and the helicopter was circling overhead. Then I heard on the bullhorn said, ‘You’re surrounded. Put your hands up,'” Madril said. “As I looked over, I saw a guy coming out from between the shrubs here in my backyard.”
During the chase, sheriff’s deputies observed the driver throwing items from the vehicle that turned out to be the personal belongings of Camacho, including her driver’s license, the sheriff’s office said.
Jasso was charged with murder and Lopez-Hernandez was charged with accessory to murder. Both were being held Tuesday without bail at the Madera County Jail.
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