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The killer had taken his time at first. He had spent hours suffocating the family one by one, then picking up after himself until the real target arrived. Only Luis Rios lived to see the paramedics. He was shot within moments of his girlfriend's 6-year-old son, whose body wasn't discovered until hours later. Her description of the man was largely consistent with another witness who would relay his to police.
His hair was close cut and unremarkable — definitely not bald and definitely not long, she said. Police sifted through thousands of tips in the nine years after the slayings. They circulated a sketch of the best lead they had: a nondescript Hispanic man with short hair. And so it came as a surprise to Quintero when her granddaughter called her in June with news of charges.
The suspect was a black man, Iris Ruiz told her grandmother. Preston Strong was also 6 feet tall with a medium build. Six people died within a span of at least six hours that day on La Mesa Street. Four of them were children.
Before Rios arrived home, the killer suffocated his girlfriend, Adrienne Bedoya Heredia, as well as three of her children: year-old Andreas Crawford, year-old Enrique Bedoya and 9-year-old Inez Newman. The Yuma Police Department had its work cut out. There was no scarcity of tips and no shortage of suspects in Rios and Adrienne Heredia's network. But as detectives chased each rumor, they were met with a series of contradictions, canceling out what had seemed promising le.
12 years after yuma's la mesa street killings, a jury will decide if there is enough evidence to convict the man accused
Rios was going through a bitter divorce, and his soon-to-be ex-wife was tied to a cast of unsavory characters. But as the investigation stretched into months and then years, none could be connected to the murders at the home.
But more contradictions plagued the investigation, effectively shelving charges for nearly a decade. And there were other, unidentified DNA profiles found on the steering wheel. Strong's alibi was shaky and unsatisfying.
But an ex-girlfriend said she was with him, at their home, at an hour when police are sure the killer was inside the La Mesa Street house. But according to Rios' brother, a. Ballistics tests indicate the missing gun could have fired the rounds at the home. Police and prosecutors were willing to wager on that scenario. This year, Yuma County prosecutors brought Strong to trial on six counts of first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery and one count of burglary.
The trial began in early February, with prosecutors spending two months presenting the case, and the defense offering only a handful of witnesses over a week. Key witnesses for both sides faltered, changed stories and second-guessed themselves.
Some are jailhouse snitches with questionable motives. The best eyewitness said he lied for more than a decade about what he saw that night. Quintero thought she remembered seeing the suspect as well as Luis Rios exit the front of the house that night and walk to the back, although there is no evidence Rios ever made it to the front yard. Strong is 50 now. Detectives turned to Strong after exhausting other promising le, said Wayne Boyd, a Yuma police homicide lieutenant who has investigated the murders since the beginning.
In his mind, though, he said, they were outweighed by the physical evidence. Prosecutors at the trial did allege Strong acted alone. There was enough time between the arrivals of each victim that one man could have bound and slayed them all. By the time he was charged inpolice and prosecutors had another card weighing in their favor.
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Rios, 35, only had met Heredia, 29, a few months before their deaths. One said they probably met at the liquor store where Rios worked. Another said maybe it was playing softball. Their romance was a new chapter for both. Each had children from relationships, each a difficult past with their exes. Rios was in the throes of a bitter divorce. Witnesses said Rios recently had told Becky he was cutting her off financially. Amanda, who is nearly 21 now, said the split and blossoming romance with Heredia took a toll on her mom.
I know she did. The two would watch cartoons and WWE together, or fake fight with Amanda in her pajamas and mimicking one of the wrestling stars. He was always making Amanda and her sister laugh, she said. Heredia was a teenager when she got pregnant the first time, and still a teenager when she conceived her second and third children.
Only Andreas and Enrique had the same father. Heredia's friends would chide her for her taste in men, but by all s Rios was different. He was the responsible parent, a successful manager of a nearby liquor store, and eager to care for Heredia and her young family.
Heredia was a tomboy, Carabajal said. She could change a tire, rode a motorcycle, and had ed a boxing club with her two oldest sons. Carabajal said he liked Rios. Heredia and her ex Kenneth Crawford had passed down their athleticism to their children, Crawford said.
Crawford was the father of the two oldest boys. Crawford said although he and Heredia ended their relationship on good terms, he had a strained relationship with Andreas and Enrique because of distance. Crawford had lived in North Carolina on and off for years and only had moved back to Yuma about nine months before the murders. His relationship with the boys was cementing, though, he said.
Crawford starting ing them at the boxing gym. I noticed him looking at me out of the corner of his eye. It was really on its way to being a great relationship.
He was reserved, perceptive and a deep thinker. He was responsible too, Crawford said.
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Man older brother had about 17 cents. They were one way out in public, but they were never apart from each other. They were like yin and yang, like a married couple. Inez Newman and Amanda Rios were the same Yuma and took to each other immediately. The two got the same toenail polish when Heredia took them out for pedicure day, and they played on the same softball team, the Angels.
Amanda said all of Heredia's kids treated her like a sister. She remembers giggling to the video game Dance Dance Revolution together with the other kids, and she and Inez rolling their eyes when Heredia bought them matching Fourth of July outfits. Danny was the typical little brother, annoying and wanting desperately to hang with the older kids, Amanda said. The two girls would let him play with them, up to a point, her said, laughing. The killer found his way inside the La Mesa Street house between late morning and early afternoon that Friday, when only Andreas and Enrique were home.
The timeline of their deaths date included in the police report on the case and in court testimony and detailed below. A couple who had been hired to clean the pool said they arrived at the residence around a. They later told police it was typical for the kids to come outside to chat while they were working. They always wanted to know when the pool would be ready for swimming. On that day though, the boys stayed inside and only spoke to them through the sliding-glass door.