The bodies of two California parents who were reported missing by their three children days before Christmas were located in a vehicle at a Campo casino in what is believed to be an apparent murder-suicide, according to police.
The bodies of Melissa and Johnny Soto were found by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Tuesday afternoon in a car at the Golden Acorn Casino, San Diego police said Wednesday. The man had a gunshot wound to the head and the woman’s injuries are still under investigation, SDPD said.
“Her death is being investigated as a homicide with her husband as the lone suspect in what appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence,” SDPD Lt. Steve Shebloski said in a news release.
While SDPD has not publicly identified the bodies, family members confirmed they were identified as the Sotos, who were reported missing on Dec. 20.
“We’re confident at this point there was a serious domestic violence incident that led to this, unfortunately, for this female to be killed by her husband. And filling in exactly why, where, when and how, that’s going to take a little bit of time, but we’re certainly working on that,” Lt. Shebloski said later during a press conference.
The Sotos, who were recently separated, were last seen by their youngest son, Vincent.
“It felt like a normal night,” Vincent recalled. “He was just sitting here watching TV like he always does. And my parents, they always talk. He asked me, ‘Hey, Vinny, can you leave for a minute? We’re going to talk.’ So I left the house, not assuming anything.”
Vincent waited for about an hour and a half before his dad texted him saying they’d left and he could come back home. As the hours passed without the parents returning, the siblings started to worry. They called police the following morning and reached out to their aunt Christina Sandoval.
“They left with no clothes,” Sandoval said. “They left with nothing. All his clothes that he wears normally, like the sweats there in the bedroom. Her phone was left here. Her wallet was left here. Her keys were left here, and then his phone was turned off about 15 to 20 minutes after he left here.”
Melissa and Johnny’s relatives said the couple’s marriage was rocky. After more than 20 years together, they separated in July.
Neighbors’ surveillance video appeared to show the last moments the couple may have been seen. At about 8:51 p.m., the video shows a car believed to be Melissa’s pulling into the driveway of the Soto home. According to neighbor Raymond Arzola, a man appeared to get out of the driver’s seat. Then, at 10:19 p.m., the same car pulled out of the driveway, turned around and pulled back into the driveway in reverse.
A different neighbor’s surveillance video shows the garage door and car trunk both open six minutes later. Arzola believes Johnny can be seen on the video. Family said police checked the trunk and didn’t find anything.
Arzola said he saw a man get back in his silver Toyota Tacoma before driving off at 10:33 p.m. He added he never saw Melissa on his surveillance footage.