In what police said was a "particularly disturbing" incident, a 56-year-old homeless man has been charged for killing his wife and brutally dismembering her body in a vacant restaurant in Pasadena, California. He allegedly packed her dismembered body parts in a suitcase, travelled with them on a train and eventually burnt it.
The woman's badly charred remains were discovered early on Thursday morning (1 February) in a Home Depot parking lot, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officials reportedly said. The man, identified as Valentino Gutierrez, was arrested on Friday and was charged with murder and arson on Tuesday (6 February).
According to police, the victim is believed to be Tiana Alfred, 31. As her body has been damaged beyond recognition, they are yet to confirm her identity.
Given the complexity of the case, detectives from the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division were called to handle the investigation. They believe that the incident happened in late January.
Police described the crime as "sheer brutality", Los Angeles Times reported.
According to LAPD Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg, Gutierrez has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for robbery, battery, domestic violence, drugs and possession of a deadly weapon. If convicted in this case, the accused will face up to life in prison.
Investigators reportedly suspect that Gutierrez first chopped Alfred's body at the shuttered Dona Rosa Bakery and Taqueria at California Boulevard and Arroyo Parkway. He then allegedly placed her remains in a suitcase and carried it with him on a train to Cypress Park, from where he rode his bicycle to the Home Depot parking lot, still towing the suitcase along. He then allegedly burnt the bag at the parking lot.
It was, however, immediately not clear how the woman was killed and police said they were still searching for the murder weapon. It was also not known who alerted authorities about the burning suitcase but firefighters extinguished the fire, following which the charred body parts were found. Police are also investigating the motive behind the crime.
The Robbery-Homicide Division reportedly tracked Gutierrez down with the help of surveillance footage that showed him riding a train with the same suitcase. Homeless people in the area were interrogated who helped identify the accused.
"To dismember an individual like that is pretty grotesque," LAPD Captain Billy Hayes said according to the newspaper. "It takes an awful lot of effort and determination by an individual, which is pretty cold."
The victim and the accused were said to have been living at a Pasadena homeless shelter for several months.