Ethan Astaphan, 27, and Sonita Heng, 20, were arrested early Thursday and booked for allegedly killing 21-year-old Juan Hernández after he was last seen alive Sept. 22, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Juan Hernandez, the 21-year-old South Los Angeles man found in a shallow grave in San Bernardino County.
Hernández was reported missing by his family when he didn’t return home from his job at VIP Collective, a cannabis dispensary in the 8100 block of S. Western Ave. in Los Angeles, his family previously told KTLA.
His mother, Yajaira Hernández, told the news station that the dispensary’s security guards said they parted ways with her son when they closed up shop at 10 p.m.
She told the Los Angeles Times her son was a semester shy of transferring to USC and planned to study engineering.
Within a week of Hernández’s disappearance, “someone attempted to extort money from the family for his safe return,” police said in a statement Thursday.
“Detectives were able to determine the attempted extortion was not related to Hernández disappearance, but he was most likely the victim of a crime and continued to investigate his disappearance,” police said.
LAPD officers working with the FBI uncovered a “sequence of events” that led them to the desert, officials said.
On Nov. 15, officials discovered Hernández’s remains in “a shallow grave” along Afton Canyon Road east of Interstate 15 and north of Barstow.
The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office responded to the scene and determined Hernández was the victim of a homicide, officials said without offering further details.
Four days later, LAPD detectives and SWAT officers served search warrants at the residences of Astaphan and Heng and arrested them.
The suspects were each being held in lieu of $10 million bail Friday, according to online jail records.
Police have asked anyone with information regarding the death to contact the Robbery-Homicide Division at (213) 486-6840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.