December 4, 2008

Grandson arrested in missing woman’s death

Vehicle found in Barstow

Desert Dispatch

Arturo Hernandez

BARSTOW • The grandson of a missing woman who turned up dead in the Mojave Desert has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Arturo Hernandez, 20, was arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the death of his 58-year-old grandmother, Luisa Aguilar Ventura, on Thanksgiving Day. Despite inquiries on the status of the case, officials did not release the arrest information until Thursday.

They also did not previously release the fact that Ventura’s silver 2002 Toyota Tacoma had been found parked behind the Barstow Mall on East Main Street Nov. 20. Witnesses said the truck had been apparently abandoned there for about three days, according to a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department report.

Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Jodi Miller said that investigators asked that the information be withheld until Thursday, out of fear of jeopardizing a sensitive investigation. She declined to elaborate on the reasons.

Family members in Pomona reported Ventura and Hernandez missing on Nov. 17, after they failed to return home from a trip to Las Vegas as expected. They had left a family member’s house in Las Vegas the day before.

Ventura’s body was found on Excelsior Mine Road, west of Interstate 15, on Nov. 25, according to the most recent sheriff’s report. The body had signs of trauma, Miller said, but a cause of death has not been determined, pending toxicology test results.

After Ventura’s body was found, family members told investigators that Hernandez was back in Southern California, Miller said. He was found at a bus stop in Rosemead by Temple City Sheriff’s Department personnel, who detained him and brought him to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department central headquarters for questioning. He was arrested there.

Miller said there was no obvious motive for the killing.

“Apparently (Hernandez) has lived with his grandmother for the majority of his life, and there’s no indication of why this may have happened,” she said.

Hernandez was arraigned in Barstow on the murder charge Tuesday and pleaded not-guilty, according to court records. He is being held at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino on $1 million bail, with his next hearing date set for Dec. 9.

Investigators are now trying to piece together what happened between the time when the pair left Las Vegas and when Hernandez was arrested. Anyone who recalls seeing Ventura, Hernandez or the truck is asked to call the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department homicide detail at 909-387-3589 or the 24-hour dispatch center at 909-387-8313. To remain anonymous, call WE-TIP at (800) 78-CRIME or leave information on the WeTip Web site at

  • Nov. 16: Luisa Ventura, 58, and grandson Arturo Hernandez, 20, leave a family member’s house in Las Vegas to head home to Pomona.

  • Nov. 17: Family members in Pomona report them missing when they fail to arrive home.

  • Nov. 20: Ventura’s Toyota Tacoma is found behind the Barstow Mall, where witnesses say it was abandoned for about three days.

  • Nov. 25: Ventura’s body is found in the Mojave Desert southwest of the California/Nevada border.

  • Nov. 27: Hernandez is arrested in Rosemead.

  • Dec. 4: Officials release the information that Hernandez has been arrested.