The victims were identified as 42-year-old Erlinda Villareal and two boys, ages 9 and 12, whose identification was still pending, according to a news release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
The agency released a photo of the suspect in the case, identified as 35-year-old Louis Gabriel Lucero, and a description of his vehicle, as part of an effort to locate him.
Shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday, deputies responded to the 15400 block of Ferndale Road in Victorville and discovered signs of a struggle inside the home of Villareal and Lucero, the sheriff's statement said. Neither of them were home when authorities arrived, and had not been seen or heard from since early that morning.
Detectives tried to find the two adults and Lucero's SUV but were unsuccessful.
Just after 5:30 p.m., the sheriff's dispatch center received a call from a person who discovered the bodies of three people while off-roading in the desert area of Waalew and Corwin roads in Apple Valley, the news release said.
Homicide detectives went to the scene and "determined that the victims left the Ferndale Road home with Lucero and were murdered at an unknown location, then left in the desert area where they were found," according to the Sheriff's Department.
Authorities said Lucero fled the area in the Ford Explorer; he was described as armed and dangerous.
The suspect was apprehended Thursday afternoon in Eagle County, Colorado, on an unrelated charge, according to San Bernardino County authorities. He was being held on those charges and the murder warrant, and is scheduled to appear at an extradition hearing before returning to California.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call sheriff's Detective Nicholas Clark, Specialized Investigations Division at (909) 387-3589.