Crime

5 arrested over California desert killings in dispute over marijuana

Officials said all suspects in the case had been arrested. The five men, ranging in age from 24 to 34, were held without bail.

A still provided by KTLA shows law enforcement vehicles where several people were found shot to death in El Mirage, Calif.
Law enforcement vehicles at the scene of the crime in El Mirage, Calif.
KTLA / AP
SMS

Five people have been arrested in the investigation surrounding six bodies found last week at a remote dirt crossroads in the Southern California desert involved in a dispute over marijuana, sheriff’s officials said Monday.

Authorities discovered the bodies in the Mojave Desert outside El Mirage after someone called 911 and said he had been shot, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Warrick said. Five bodies were found late Tuesday and a sixth the following morning.

Five suspects were arrested after deputies served search warrants Sunday in the Adelanto and Apple Valley areas of San Bernardino County and the Pinyon Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles County, Warrick said at a news conference.

“We are confident that this appears to be a dispute over marijuana,” he said.

Warrick said all the suspects in the case had been arrested. The five men, ranging in age from 24 to 34, were held without bail.

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Warrick said all the victims were likely shot to death and that four of the bodies had been burned together. A fifth victim was found inside a Chevy Trailblazer, and the sixth was discovered in the desert a short distance away, he said.

Four of the victims have been identified so far, Warrick said.

The scene showed a “level of violence” reminiscent of drug cartels, but investigators couldn't immediately confirm that cartels were involved, officials said.

Overhead footage from TV stations last week showed a dark blue SUV with a passenger window blown out and another door open, with part of the image blurred. The footage also showed numerous yellow evidence markers in the scrubby desert.

The area, some 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is so remote that the sheriff’s department called in help from the California Highway Patrol’s Aviation Division to find the scene.