Body found in car in Huntington Beach ID'd as missing Arizona woman; murder suspect arrested

David González Image
Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Arizona woman found dead in trunk of car in OC; suspect arrested
A woman whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Huntington Beach has been identified as an Arizona resident, and a man who she may have been dating was arrested.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A murder victim whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Huntington Beach has been identified as an Arizona woman, and a man who she may have been dating was arrested in connection with the killing, authorities said.

The victim was identified as 54-year-old Christi Romero, according to the Huntington Beach Police Department. She and her two-door 1995 Plymouth Neon had been reported missing by her family when they contacted the Holbrook Police Department in Arizona on Monday.

Huntington Beach police officers were initially dispatched to a home in the 17000 block of Friml Lane about 5:15 p.m. Monday after receiving reports of a family disturbance at the residence, authorities said.

"Upon arrival, officers located individuals based on interviews," said Jessica Cuchilla, a police spokeswoman. "An investigation led the officers to such a vehicle in the area where a female victim's body was discovered."

Detectives from the Crimes Against Persons Unit were sent to the scene, police said. News video showed investigators examining the trunk of a vehicle parked outside the home.

"The Orange County District Attorney's Office and the Orange County Sheriff's Department-Coroner Division and Crime Lab also responded to assist," police said in a statement. "Based on interviews and evidence located at the scene, 34-year-old Richard Paul Rodriguez of Holbrook, Arizona, was arrested and booked on one count of PC 187(a) Murder."

Holbrook police believe Romero was forced out of her Arizona home by Rodriguez, adding that she had an active order of protection against him. Her cause of death is unknown.

Huntington Beach police said the couple may have been dating.

"There is no further threat to the public," Cuchilla said. "This is an isolated incident between the suspect and the victim. We're not looking for anybody else."

Authorities would not confirm what Rodriguez was doing in Huntington Beach but said he may have family or friends in the area.

"It makes my heart pound uneasy," said Vera Sinha, who lives in the area where Romero's body was found. "It makes us scared, because in the world we that we are in at this moment -- when so many chaotic things happen -- bad things happen, even in good neighborhoods."

Anyone with information on the case was urged to call Huntington Beach Police Detective S. McCollom at (714) 960-8848. Tipsters may also call OC Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

City News Service contributed to this report.