Teen girls sought in Yucaipa murder arrested in AZ

YUCAIPA — A San Bernardino County runaway juvenile investigation has turned into a murder investigation after deputies searching for a 14-year-old girl at a Yucaipa residence instead found the lifeless body of a man. The victim, who appeared to have sustained a fatal gunshot wound, was found Friday morning, Feb. 8, at a home in the 32200 block of Avenue E., between 15th and 16th streets.

Two girls believed connected to the man’s murder, ages 14 and 15, were later arrested in Arizona after they reportedly crashed into a gas pump while driving the victim’s stolen car. The two alleged suspects have since been brought back to California, where they were eventually booked into Juvenile Hall in San Bernardino on suspicion of murder and other related charges.

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As part of an ongoing runaway juvenile investigation, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies assigned to Yucaipa Police Department went to the Yucaipa residence shortly before 9:20 a.m., last Friday.

“Once inside the residence, deputies located a deceased male … with an apparent gunshot wound,” SBSO’s Specialized Investigations Division – Homicide Detail later explained. The victim was later identified as Reuben Franco Jr., 24, of Cherry Valley.

Based on the circumstances, detectives from the Specialized Investigations Division — Homicide Detail responded to the location and assumed the investigation.

Detectives soon learned that in addition to the 14-year-old runaway who deputies were originally searching for, a second, 15-year-old girl, was also missing from the residence and believed to be with the girl officials were originally searching for.

Detectives also determined Franco’s vehicle was not at the residence and had been stolen. Officials put out a “Be on the Lookout” or BOLO for the two teens, as well as the victim’s stolen car.

Just a few hours later, shortly after 1:30 p.m., officials from Buckeye Police Department in Arizona contacted SBSO homicide detectives and advised their officers had detained the two wanted girls after responding to reports of a pair of teens who had collided into a gas pump at a Buckeye gas station.

During their collision investigation, officers learned that both teens were wanted in connection with the earlier homicide and that the car they were driving was registered to the deceased victim and had been reported stolen.

Homicide detectives responded to Buckeye, where they took custody of the juveniles and transported them back to San Bernardino County. They were later booked into a San Bernardino County Juvenile Hall.

The alleged suspects’ names have not been released due to their ages.

Officials have no known motive for the killing and, citing their ongoing investigation, have declined to release any further details or additional information about the case.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact Detective Mike Cleary or Sergeant Mike Walker of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Specialized Investigations Division at (909) 387-3589. Callers can refer to incident file number 141900419 and remain anonymous. Anyone with information can also contact WeTip at (800)78-CRIME or www.wetip.com.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta 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. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s 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 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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