Ed. Note: This is the first in an occasional series looking at the six homicides that were reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in 2017.
As homicide detectives continue to investigate Santa Clarita Valley’s first homicide of 2018 — still unclear as to why a father of two would kill his wife, children and then himself — questions persist over the six homicides that happened last year.
Law enforcement officials have named suspects in four of the six homicides that occurred in the SCV in 2017.
For the unsolved murders, detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Homicide Bureau have a scant amount of evidence to scrutinize.
On April 3, homicide detectives were called to their first SCV homicide, a gang slaying in Newhall.
Steven Ryan Valenzuela-Hughes, 27, was shot and killed on Bottletree Lane shortly after 8 a.m. that day, near the intersection of Valle Del Oro and Dockweiler Drive.
Deputies rushed to scene with guns drawn and quickly surrounded an apartment complex on Valle Del Oro, near Costa Brava and Via Canon, paying particular attention to a playground on Via Canon and a pool near the complex.
Despite the swift and overwhelming police response, however, detectives could not find the gunman.
They interviewed scores of people, and later reported being “pleasantly surprised at how much cooperation they were getting.”
At the end of the day, however, despite the help, they reported: “We still don’t know who we’re looking for.”
The only aspect of the deadly shooting they were convinced about was that it was gang-related.
In less than a week, homicide detectives were called back to the Santa Clarita Valley for another murder.
On April 8, deputies responded to the calls of a concerned mother. They grabbed a battering ram and smashed their way into a residence on the 18700 block of Vista Del Canon near Sierra Highway and Via Princessa.
What they found inside was the body of a 46-year-old Christine Diane Mcqueen. She had been stabbed to death.
Detectives made an arrest quickly. Pamela Michelle Walker, 34, and unemployed, was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Walker has remained in custody at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, with bail set at $1 million.
She is expected to appear in San Fernando Superior Court on Feb. 1 to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
During that hearing, prosecutors will present evidence in the case, and the defense can respond, after which the judge will decide if the case should go to trial.
In the late afternoon of July 8, homicide detectives began probing the stabbing death of a Newhall man whose body was found near Pyramid Lake and the Piru Creek Campground.
The body of Josue Salvadore Antonez was found near Frenchman’s Flat on the Golden State Highway Old Road.
He had been stabbed, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
“We’re still looking for a possible motive,” said Lt. John Corina, when asked early on in the case about details surrounding the murder.
In 2018, not only are detectives still looking for the killer, but for a motive, as well.
Twice that summer, reports from the LASD’s Homicide Bureau looked promising. However, each time those reports fizzled, leaving no resolution in the case.
In the month that followed the stabbing, detectives hauled at least two people in for questioning as a “person of interest.”
They detained a 27-year-old Newhall man who works as a dish washer, and also a 32-year-old laborer, also of Newhall.
Both men were released.
Three days later, homicide detectives were back in the SCV for the community’s fourth murder.
On the morning of July 11, about 5 a.m., the SCV Sheriff’s Station’s 911 center received a report of gunfire near Abelia Road and Via Gardenia, near Soledad Canyon Road and Shadow Pines, Lt. Doug Mohroff told The Signal at that time.
Responding units discovered Ivan Solis, 25, of Canyon Country, dead from an apparent gunshot wound at Begonias Lane Park, between Begonias Lane and Abelia Road.
Whoever killed him shot him multiple times, Lt. David Smith of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner told The Signal over the summer.
On July 19, a week after the shooting, detectives arrested 20-year-old Nicholas Colletta. But, they were not finished with their investigation.
Less than a month later, on Aug. 10, they arrested Jacqueline Arreola — described in their arrest report as 4-foot-9 and 95 pounds — on suspicion of murder. Detectives set her bail at $2 million.
Both suspects charged with murder are scheduled to appear in San Fernando Superior Court on Feb. 5, to set a date for their preliminary hearing.
On Sept. 24, deputies opened a closet door inside a home near Valencia Glen Park and found the lifeless body of 20-year-old Brayan “Brian” Jose Rodriguez, of Valencia.
He had been strangled to death.
A day after the grim discovery was made, Lt. Rodney Moore, a detective with the LASD’s Homicide Bureau, arrested 21-year-old Christian Ortiz, a friend of the deceased man.
When asked about a possible motive behind the murder at the time of the death, Moore said he is close to revealing what he believes was the motive, but for the time being is choosing to keep that to himself.
A recent check with homicide detectives, however, revealed that no motive has been released.
“There is an indication of a motive before the killing,” Moore said, “but I don’t think it would serve anyone’s interest to reveal what that is at this time.”
Ortiz appears in court next week on Jan. 23, when he’s expected to be formally charged in the killing.
In the middle of the afternoon on Oct. 23, homicide detectives were called to Ridge Route Road in Castaic where the body of 31-year-old Tron Mayo, a resident of Inglewood, had been found by passersby.
He had been stabbed to death.
Lt. Rodney Moore who arrived at the scene — an access road a half-mile north of 35500 Ridge Route Road, near Pinecrest Place, said of the case: “The victim sustained suspicious injuries to his upper torso and based on his injuries we are now treating this as a homicide.”
The motive for the killing continues to elude detectives.