A California couple has reportedly confessed to torturing and murdering an elderly Vietnam veteran then burning his body.
Stacie Mendoza, 38, and Jose Mendoza, 36, are accused of killing retired contractor Kenneth Coyle, 70, on April 5 or 6 at his Hanford home. Days later, police said the couple—with their three children in tow—got a U-Haul, took Coyle’s body to rural Madera County, and burned it.
“We know the children were taken to when the body was burned and watched the body burn,” Hanford Police Captain Karl Anderson said, according to KTRK.
Coyle and Stacie reportedly met at a restaurant where Stacie waitressed. The victim’s sister told the Hanford Sentinel that Coyle had no children and sought out friendships at restaurants. However, it wasn’t long until Stacie allegedly got access to Coyle’s financial information.
“And we think she manipulated that relationship to gain his trust and defraud him of money,” Anderson said.
In an attempt to get more money out of the elderly veteran, Stacie and Jose reportedly went to Coyle’s home on April 5 or 6 and tortured him. The pair is accused of tying the 70-year-old to a bed where they beat him until he died.
Police got involved on April 12, after Stacie and Jose reportedly returned to the home to get the deed to Coyle’s property and a package that was delivered to the home.
The Fresno Bee reported that the property manager called police after Stacie claimed Coyle had been hurt and was being treated at an unknown facility in Stanislaus County. Stacie reportedly took off in Coyle’s truck after the suspicious exchange.
“[Property management employees] were pivotal, without a doubt,” Anderson said. “Good people recognizing when something’s not right and taking the time to contact law enforcement.”
Authorities reportedly tracked Coyle’s cell phone to the couple’s Fresno home. From there, investigators arrested them at a Denny’s near Los Angeles International Airport. Jose was in possession of Coyle’s belongings and a ticket to El Salvador, his native country, according to KTRK.
The news station reported that police believe Coyle died from blunt force trauma and suffocation. An autopsy is scheduled for this week.
Anderson said all three children have spoken with police and are in the custody of Child Protective Services. Meanwhile, Jose and Stacie are facing various charges, including first-degree murder. They’re being held without bail.
[Featured Image: Stacie Mendoza, Jose Mendoza/Hanford Police Department]