THERMAL: Deputies go from auto theft to murder investigation after body discovered

THERMAL — Deputies conducting a stolen vehicle investigation yesterday morning got more than they bargained for when an area resident directed them to a man’s lifeless body in a nearby irrigation canal. Within hours of the discovery authorities had arrested a 50-year-old Thermal man.

After an investigation, authorities arrested Saul Valenzuela Mayoral and he was booked into Indio Jail on suspicion of murder. He was also booked on a charge of battery on a custodial officer; however no information regarding that charge was immediately available.

Following Mayoral’s arrest, Riverside County Sheriff’s Sergeant Wallace Clear explained that at just after 7:15 a.m., deputies from Riverside County Sheriff’s Thermal Station were on the 87000 block of Avenue 52, between Polk and Fillmore Streets, regarding an unrelated stolen vehicle investigation.

“While in the area, the deputies were flagged down by a local resident who directed them to a deceased adult male lying near a drainage channel,” said Clear. Officials have not specified how or if the person who reported the body knew the victim or how the person had found the victim’s body inside the drainage canal.

Deputies soon located the victim, only identified as an adult male, in the channel. The victim, who has not been identified pending notification of the man’s family, appeared to have suffered “blunt force trauma,” according to Clear, who did not advise how long the victim’s body had been in the channel or the exact nature of the victim’s injuries.

Deputies conducting an initial investigation into the homicide learned the victim lived in a nearby mobile home and that Mayoral also lived in the area.

During their investigation deputies developed leads and gathered information that led to Mayoral being identified as suspect in the murder and detained him without incident. Officials did not specify what led them to identifying Mayoral as a possible suspect.

“(Mayoral) was detained while investigators from Thermal Station and the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit were called to the scene,” Clear explained.

During the subsequent investigation officials closed down Fillmore Street at Avenue 52, and technicians from the Sheriff’s Forensic Services Bureau and other officials were seen documenting, photographing and collecting evidence in and around the irrigation channel. It was not immediately known if officials located the weapon that caused the victim’s fatal blunt force injuries.

An online jail records search revealed Mayoral remain in custody and is being held without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at Indio’s Larson Justice Center, Mar. 28.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Investigator Bloomquist at the Sheriff’s Thermal Station at (760) 863-8990 or Investigator Paz at the Central Homicide Unit at (951) 955-2777. Callers can refer to incident file number C18082004 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s Homicide Tipline online form.


Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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