A 23-year-old man in a Umatilla County jail is a person of interest in the killings of three Pasco people found Saturday in a remote Benton County field.
Francisco Javier Resendiz Miranda is one of several suspects in the triple homicide that left two women and a man dead, said a law enforcement source. Authorities are trying to track down other suspects who might have participated in the grisly shootings.
Abigail Torres-Renteria, 23, David Perez-Saucedo, 22, and Victoria Torres, 19, were across the Oregon border in Umatilla just hours before they were gunned down, Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane said at a news conference Tuesday. Torres-Renteria was pregnant with a “full-term” baby girl, who also died.
Authorities have not released how they believe the trio ended up dead about 20 miles away early Saturday.
Miranda was originally booked into the jail Sunday on suspicion of kidnapping and criminal conspiracy, according to authorities and jail records.
However, officials Tuesday said Miranda is being held on charges unrelated to the deaths, including suspicion of attempted assault, unlawful use of a weapon and menacing.
He was arrested after an incident at a convenience store sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, said Daniel Primus, Umatilla County district attorney. Primus did not want to discuss the case because it’s an ongoing investigation.
Keane told reporters Tuesday that Miranda is not the only one who may have knowledge of what happened to the victims.
“We believe there are several people who are persons of interest that either have information about this crime, or may or may not have been directly involved in this crime,” Keane said.
A team of several Oregon law enforcement agencies is helping the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. The FBI also is involved.
Autopsies Monday showed the three victims died from at least one gunshot wound, said Benton County Coroner John Hansens. Officials believe the trio were killed with a handgun in the cornfield southeast of Nine Canyon Road and Coffin Road.
Torres-Renteria was shot once in the neck, he said. Perez-Saucedo was shot twice in the head and Torres was shot once in the neck. They were all killed about 4 a.m. and a farmworker found them close to 6 a.m.
Torres-Renteria and Perez Saucedo were found next to each other while Torres was found about 15 feet away, officials said.
Keane called the shootings horrific and told reporters that the case is the highest priority for the sheriff’s office right now. He called the case “complex” and complicated to investigate because it involves several jurisdictions and other issues.
“The best thing I can do for the family and friends is find the person or persons responsible for this, and make sure we conduct a thorough investigation that will stand up in court,” he said.
Friends and family of the victims have had a hard time dealing with the deaths, they said.
Torres was a Pasco High student and was registered to attend school this fall. Friends called her “sweet and caring,” telling the Herald she will be missed.
Torres’ mother was released from Franklin County jail after she asked to get out to grieve her daughter’s death. Officials agreed to let her leave until a September sentencing hearing on a drug charge.
“(Torres) was a very beautiful and loved girl,” said Mia Pautz, Torres’ cousin. “She has a lot of family who loves her. She was a very outgoing girl.”
Torres-Renteria, who was almost nine months pregnant, was a mother and had recently moved back to the Tri-Cities to try to get a fresh start of life, friends said. Her family says she was a strong, independent woman who was loved by many.
And Perez-Saucedo was a Mexican native who had lived in the Tri-Cities for 12 years. He worked as a laborer.
Keane asked for patience from the public as his department tries to solve the case.
“People want answers but we are still pretty early into this investigation,” he said. “Investigations like this could take months or longer to come to a successful resolution.”