Police arrested two suspects believed to have killed a Salinas man and left his body near the San Benito and Monterey county line.
According to San Benito County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Taylor, a family that was traveling on Salinas Grade Road on Jan. 6 discovered the remains of a man inside a cement drainage tunnel downhill from the roadway.
The body was transported to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s office in San Jose for autopsy. After an extensive process, the deceased was identified on Jan. 20 as Saul Venegas, 31, of Salinas.
Venegas had been reported missing from Salinas on Nov. 10.
The Sheriff’s Office and the Salinas Police Department began a joint investigation, which led to Jorge T. Martinez, 39, and Crystal Toney, 30, as the suspects, according to Taylor.
The two worked to cover up the murder, Taylor said, and transported the suspected vehicle used in the crime to a storage locker in Brea.
With the assistance of the Brea Police Department, a search warrant for the vehicle revealed “numerous” pieces of evidence to support the case, which were recovered by the FBI Evidence Response Team from the Los Angeles FBI Office, according to Taylor.
Martinez and Toney were located at the Brea storage facility on Feb. 10 and were arrested without incident, Taylor said.
The pair were transported to the San Benito County Jail on Feb. 14 and were arraigned at the San Benito County Superior Court on Feb. 17.
Martinez is being charged for the murder of Venegas, while Toney is being charged as an accessory after the fact, Taylor said, adding that investigators are still pursuing leads for other suspects.
Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office and Salinas Police have “not stopped working on this case” since late January. Salinas Police set up a workstation and housed a San Benito detective in their building.
“The inter-agency cooperation in this case was amazing,” Taylor said. “Our office would like to thank the Salinas Police Department for their unwavering support in this case. They dedicated multiple persons to assist us to include their CSI staff, detectives, CSOs and command staff. We would not have been able to piece this case together without them and their tenacity. Also, the staff of the San Francisco and Los Angeles FBI Offices were a huge help. Brea and Anaheim Police Departments opened their doors to us and provided staff to assist in multiple search warrants, evidence processing, vehicle tows and interview rooms.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office at 831.636.4080, or email Detective Jason Leist at [email protected] Tipsters can also text TIP SBCSO to 888777.