ONTARIO, Calif. — Police are trying to determine if body parts found in a trash can that a woman was seen pushing down a street could be those of her ex-boyfriend who was recently reported missing.
Carmen Montenegro, 51, of San Bernardino, was charged with murder Tuesday, two days after police discovered the body parts in the barrel she was pushing and what appeared to be bodily fluids at a nearby house, authorities said.
Investigators have not yet identified the man, how he died, when he died, where he died or the relationship between him and Montenegro. Investigators were withholding information about which body parts were in the 30-gallon plastic trash container and which ones are missing, Ontario police Sgt. Jeff Crittenden said.
But he said investigators were looking into the whereabouts of one of Montenegro’s former boyfriends who was reported missing by his family after disappearing May 1.
Investigators spent Monday excavating property around a house that is owned by one of Montenegro’s family members, Crittenden said.
Montenegro, who listed her occupation as a clerk on police documents, has apparently lived in the house on and off over the years. The house is about 200 yards from where she was pushing the can, Crittenden said.
A hole was found in the backyard and what may have been body fluids were detected, but Crittenden would not say if a grave or additional body parts were found.
A relative who also lived in the house told the San Bernardino Sun that he saw Montenegro waist-deep in a backyard hole on Sunday while a man with a shovel — possibly a day laborer — stood nearby.
Matthew Bell said he saw Montenegro throw body parts into a trash can, and she offered Bell $5,000 for help in disposing of a body. Overwhelmed by the smell and gruesome sight, he left to call police, but said she followed with the trash can, pleading: “Help me hide him.”
“I still can’t believe it,” Bell, 18, said Tuesday. “It’s (like) some crazy movie.”
Bell said family members told him that two gunmen came to Montenegro’s home in San Bernardino last week, demanded information about a missing man she was last seen with, and stole her purse and car. Bell said there was a document in the car that had the address of the Holmes Avenue home and Montenegro may have been afraid that the men would discover the body there.
Crittenden said he had heard reports that Montenegro asked some neighbors for help disposing of the body, but the only statements he had seen from witnesses who called 911 were from people who had been alerted by the smell.
He said no other suspect was being sought but added: “We can’t eliminate other people. We have to figure out the identity of the victim and figure out what kind of relationship the suspect had to the victim.”
Police don’t think there are other victims, the detective said. “It looks like an isolated incident, but we are still looking,” Crittenden said.
The San Bernardino County coroner’s office said the man’s name would be released after he was identified and his family was notified.