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Suspect pleads guilty to Indio storage burglary which included theft of child’s ashes

Indio PD

A man suspected in connection with a break-in at an Indio storage unit from which items were stolen including the ashes of the victim's deceased son pleaded guilty to burglary and was immediately sentenced to one year of supervised release.

Juan Carlos Molina of Indio, 36, of Indio pleaded guilty to the felony charge Tuesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to court and inmate records.

Co-defendant Taylor Spencer, 31, of Thousand Palms is charged with one felony count each of burglary and receiving stolen property, which Wally Venecia, 43, of Indio, and 54-year-old Victor Banuelos of La Quinta were also charged.

Banuelos additionally faces one felony count each of possessing controlled substances while armed and possessing ammunition as well as three felony counts of being a convicted felon and narcotic addict in possession of a firearm, according to court records. Venecia and Banuelos pleaded not guilty to their respective charges Nov. 15 at the Larson Justice Center.   

Venecia's next court appearance was set for Dec. 28, when Spencer is set to be arraigned, according to court records. Banuelos will next appear in court Jan. 3, 2024.

The burglary occurred sometime on Nov. 7 or Nov. 8 at Prime Storage in the 42900 block of Madison Street, according to a statement from the Indio Police Department. Detectives pursued multiple leads over the following days before two traffic stops and a search warrant led them to arrest Molina.

Detectives then found some of the victim's belongings at a Bermuda Dunes motel, but the ashes were not immediately located, according to police. A search warrant was later served in Palm Desert, where Victor Banuelos was arrested for allegedly having a large amount of the victim's property, an assault weapon, additional handguns and 1 1/3 pounds of methamphetamine for sale.

He was arrested Nov. 10 and booked into the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, but was released Nov. 16.   

"Due to the continuing investigation, the child's ashes were dropped off at Cal Fire Station #81 (in Palm Desert),'' according to a police statement. "Detectives quickly responded to the fire station and contacted the Riverside County Coroner, who was in possession of the ashes of the victim's child.''

The ashes were delivered to the family, and two additional suspects -- Venecia and Spencer -- were subsequently found and arrested Nov. 13 in Coachella, according to police.

Spencer was booked into the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, but was released the next day on a $10,000 bail bond, according to inmate records. Venecia was booked into the John J. Benoit Detention Center, but was subsequently released on a $50,000 bail bond.

Anyone with additional information on the burglary was asked to call Detective Andres Meraz at 760-541-4120 or Valley Crime Stoppers anonymously at 760-341-7867.

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Article Topic Follows: Crime

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