Skip to Content

Suspect in murder of missing Desert Hot Springs man to stand trial


A La Quinta man will be arraigned next week on a murder charge stemming from the shooting death of a 20-year-old man whose body was found in the open desert of Desert Hot Springs.

At the end of a preliminary hearing Monday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Edward Forstenzer ruled there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial for Jose Manuel Angel Arellano, 23, on the murder charge. A post-preliminary hearing arraignment was set for Feb. 16.

Arellano is accused in the slaying of David Joaquin Murrieta of Desert Hot Springs, according to Sgt. Rick Espinoza of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. According to court records, 27-year-old Gabriel "Vago" Magdaleno is also accused in the case, but was charged separately from Arellano with murder and a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury.

According to Espinoza, deputies from the Palm Desert sheriff's station investigating a missing person case discovered human remains on Jan. 21, 2021, in the area of Mission Lakes Boulevard and Little Morongo Road.

Sheriff's Detective Martin Alfaro testified in Arellano's preliminary hearing Monday that Murrieta's body was found with three gunshot wounds -- one entering from the back of his head, one from the left side of his head and one from the right side of his chin -- in a shallow grave under a set of metal springs in the open desert.   

Alfaro said Arellano drove from Tijuana, Mexico, to the Palm Desert sheriff's station on Feb. 17, 2021, to tell "his side of the story" and alleged that his friend, Magdaleno, was the one who shot Murrieta on Jan. 14, 2021.

According to Alfaro, Arellano said the trio were at Murrieta's house before they all left in the defendant's truck and drove toward Indio. At some point while Arellano was driving on Intestate 10 approaching Cook Street, Magdaleno and Murrieta began arguing, Alfaro testified.

Both men had guns in their hands during the argument, and Arellano said Magdaleno felt disrespected, according to a declaration in support of Magdaleno's arrest warrant filed by Alfaro.  

"Arellano told me that he saw Magdaleno shoot once at victim Murrieta in the back of the head and subsequently saw him shoot him two additional times after,'' Alfaro testified Monday.

The defendant then drove to the location where they ended up burying Murrieta with a shovel that was in the back of the truck, Alfaro said.   

Arellano subsequently went to a house on Sixth Street to get rid of his clothes by burning them before driving his truck to Mexico, Alfaro said.   

According to inmate records, Magdaleno was arrested Dec. 13, 2022, and he remains held at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on $1 million bail. A declaration in support of his arrest was filed by Alfaro on Aug. 18, 2022, according to court records.

Arellano remains held at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta on $1 million bail.

Arellano does not have any documented felony convictions in Riverside County. Magdaleno pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery in 2014 in Riverside County.

Be the first to know when news breaks in Coachella Valley. Download the News Channel 3 app here.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

City News Service

KESQ News Team


News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content