Thermal Murder / Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News


Thermal Murder / Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

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A 22-year-old Indio man accused of killing his girlfriend
and setting fire to the Thermal mobile home she shared with her children
pleaded not guilty today to murder, arson, assault and animal cruelty charges.

Christian Pacheco is charged in the death of Elilia Valdez, a mother of
two. According to the criminal complaint, a knife was used in the murder, and
Pacheco is also accused of committing an assault with a deadly weapon -- a
vehicle - on a man and animal cruelty on a dog, also while wielding a knife.

The blaze was reported at 11:41 a.m. March 18 in the 83500 block of
Avenue 60. The mobile home was fully engulfed in flames when emergency
personnel arrived.

Story: Man Arrested In Thermal Arson / Murder

No one was inside, but "information obtained from witnesses indicated
that a domestic violence incident may have occurred between an adult female
resident and her boyfriend before the home was set on fire,'' said Riverside
County sheriff's Sgt. Raymond Huskey.

Deputies located Pacheco at 12:45 p.m. in the 51700 block of Calle
Torres Orduno in Coachella, the sergeant said. The victim was found at 5:20
p.m. in the area of 63700 Monroe Street in Thermal, about three miles southwest
of the mobile home fire, he said.

At Pacheco's arraignment, defense attorney Christopher DeSalva requested
a psychiatric evaluation of his client. A judge denied that request, but
agreed to allow the defense to bring in a psychiatrist to speak to the
defendant while he is in custody.

DeSalva did not comment on what exactly led to the request, other than
he felt it was "appropriate'' after speaking with Pacheco and gathering the
facts of the case.

DeSalva also said the alleged crimes were "atypical of his (Pacheco's)
prior behavior.'' He said Pacheco had not been in any prior serious trouble
with the law, was well liked by members of his church, and was ``quite gentle
with animals'' in his work as a dog groomer.

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Pacheco remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. He is scheduled
to return to court on April 12 for a felony settlement conference.

Family members created a GoFundMe page to pay for the victim's funeral
expenses."Last Friday our dear sister Elilia Valdez' life was taken from her in
an act of senseless and horrific violent crime,'' the page reads. "Local
authorities of the Coachella Valley found her body in a remote area on Saturday
after the man that took her life burned her and her children's belongings. It
has been such a sudden and tragic loss for our family.''

Those seeking to donate to the family can visit

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