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Man pleads guilty to harboring suspects in murders of Coachella Valley couple

A man pleaded guilty to charges related to the harboring and concealing suspects in the murder of Coachella Valley couple Jonathan Darling Reynoso and Audrey Moran.

On Sept. 10, Jesus Ruiz Jr. pleaded guilty to two counts of wilfully and unlawfully having knowledge of the murders of Reynoso and Moran as well as harboring and concealing two of the suspects, Manuel Rios, 28, of Coachella and Abraham Fregoso Jr., 33, of Indio.

(From Left to Right) Manuel Rios, Abraham Fregoso, & Jesus Ruiz Jr

Ruiz, 42, of Stockon, was sentenced to two years in prison on Sept. 22, however, he was released due to time served, according to John Hall, public information officer for the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

Hall told News Channel 3 that Ruiz had 454 days of actual custody and 454 days of credit for a total of 908 days.

Reynoso, 28, and Moran, 26, were last heard on May 10, 2017. Moran had left her home to pick up Reynoso, who may have been returning to the Coachella Valley from the Brawley area the day the couple went missing, investigators said.

Two days later, a vehicle that was driven by Moran was found on the side of the westbound Interstate 10 freeway west of Oak Valley Parkway in Beaumont. At the time of the discovery, police said there were no signs of forceable entry or blood inside the vehicle.

The couple's disappearance prompted family, loved ones, and the community to work for three years to find answers as to what happened.

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On June 27, 2020, Ruiz, Fregoso, and Manuel Rios were identified as suspects in the deaths of Reynoso and Moran. Rios is charged with 2 counts of first-degree murder. Fregoso is charged with one count of first-degree murder.

Watch: Friends of the missing couple react to arrest made in the case

The trio was the first of six total suspects arrested in connection with the deaths of Reynoso and Moran.

Nearly a month after the first trio of suspects was identified, authorities announced that Eric Rios, 32, of Coachella, Aaron Fernando Bernal, 29, of Indio, and Adilene Ines Castaneda, 28 of Coachella had been arrested in connection with the killings.

(From Left to Right) Aaron Fernando Bernal, Eric Rios, and Adilene Ines Castaneda

Eric Rios was charged with two counts of being an accessory to a crime after the fact.

Bernal and Castaneda were charged with one count each of murder and being an accessory to a crime after the fact.

Manuel Rios, Fregoso, Bernal, and Castaneda also face a special circumstance allegation of killing a witness of a crime, which could make them eligible for the death penalty if prosecutors opt to pursue it.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin confirmed that the witness was Moran. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a news conference in June 2020 that Moran and Reynoso were known to their alleged killers, but would not comment further.

Back in 2018, News Channel 3 I-Team investigator John White went to a Coachella home, where neighbors at the time said Bernal lived, then calling him Moran's ex-boyfriend. Search warrants revealed authorities were looking for Bernal's car and found it burned in a field in Thermal just days after the couple disappeared in an apparent arson fire.

Authorities announced on June 30, 2020, that their remains were located. Bianco said the remains were located in an unspecified location in the Coachella Valley.

The DNA results for the couple's remains were released on Oct. 16, 2020, confirming their identities.

“It’s a match. It’s a match for Jonathan,” recalled Reynoso's mother in a post on Facebook describing her conversation with an investigator.

The remaining five suspects in this murder case are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 15. Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing coverage.

Jesus Reyes

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