UPDATE: Report of traffic accident leads to murder investigation – suspect arrested

UPDATED: 05/17/2016 11:12 p.m.

Rigoberto Villanuevo was arrested for murder and other charges.

Rigoberto Villanuevo was arrested for murder and other charges.

WHITEWATER – Officials from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Cabazon Station arrested a man on Thursday, May 12, accused of murdering a woman, according to Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Jeff Buompensiero.

The investigation began after California Highway Patrol officers were dispatched to the report of a traffic collision on Tipton Road, one-half mile west of Whitewater off ramp, in the unincorporated area known as Whitewater.

Following an investigation, Riverside Sheriff’s Central Homicide Investigators arrested the alleged suspect, identified as Rigoberto Villanueva, 39 of Fontana. CHP officers had initially spotted and detained Villanueva walking away from the area where Barrasa’s body was found.

The victim has been identified by Coroner’s officials as Rosemary Barrasa, 37, of Bloomington, CA. As of this report, it was not known what type of relationship, if any, the two might have been involved in, however one of the charges against Villanuevo would suggest the two either are or were involved in a relationship.

CHP officers and other emergency first responders were originally dispatched to the location regarding the report of a traffic collision. When the first officer arrived at the location just after 2:15 a.m., they located a Hispanic female adult with “obvious signs of trauma to her body,” Buompensiero explained. Based on the condition of the victim, who was later identified as Barrasa, officials pronounced her dead at 2:19 a.m.

A coroner’s release indicated the exact time and date Barrasa was killed had not yet been determined, pending further investigation.

At about 2:42 a.m., after CHP officers determined a crime had been committed, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the crime scene. Deputies quickly determined Barrasa’s injuries were inconsistent with a traffic collision. Deputies learned that CHP officers had detained Villanueva after they spotted him walking away from scene of the initially reported accident.

Based on their initial investigation, investigators from the Sheriff’s Cabazon Station and the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit responded to the location and assumed the investigation.

After the conclusion of their investigation, investigators arrested Villanueva for assault with a deadly weapon and he was booked into custody at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility.

“(Barrasa’s) cause of death is under investigation,” according to Buompensiero. “Due to the on-going status of the case, no further information will be released at this time,” Buompensiero said.

A jail records search revealed Villanuevo was booked into jail for suspicion of committing murder with malice, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and inflicting corporal injury to a spouse or co-habitant. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at an unspecified court May 20.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to call Investigator Sean Dusek of the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit at (760) 393-3522. Callers can refer to incident file number B161330005 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s Homicide Tipline online form.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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