RIVERSIDE – Two men suspected in the 2006 killings of three people in Pinyon Pines, including the ex-girlfriend of one of the defendants, made their initial court appearances today on murder charges.
Cristin Conrad Smith and Robert Lars Pape, both 25, were arrested Tuesday in connection with the deaths of Vicki Friedli, 53, her boyfriend Jon Hayward, 55, and Friedli’s 18-year-old daughter Becky. The three were killed Sept. 17, 2006, at their home on Alpine Drive.
Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges, but Pape’s arraignment was rescheduled to Tuesday, the same day Smith has a felony settlement conference in Indio.
Both defendants are charged with three counts of murder, with special circumstance allegations of committing multiple murders,and two sentence- enhancing firearm-use allegations.
Pape, a Rancho Mirage resident, could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted because he was an adult at the time of the killings, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said.
Smith, who’s from Washington state, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if found guilty. He was 17 at the time of the murders.
Smith was arrested at Palm Springs International Airport about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Pape in Salton City shortly after 4 p.m. Both are being held without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
Pape, Becky Friedli’s ex-boyfriend, was charged in a grand jury indictment handed down Tuesday and unsealed this morning in Riverside. Smith was originally named in the indictment, but was stricken from the document today because he was a juvenile at the time of the murders, Hall said. A criminal complaint was filed against him instead.
The District Attorney’s Office first received the case for review in April 2013, and it was decided that more investigation was needed. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department brought the case back December, and the D.A.’s office did follow-up investigating and opted to present the case to a grand jury.
”Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for this investigation to reach this point. Now that charges have been filed against these two men, we are hopeful that this will bring some solace to the victims’ families,” District Attorney Paul Zellerbach said.
The grand jury that reviewed the case heard testimony from about 30 witnesses in five days, Hall said.
Firefighters who responded to a fire at the victims’ home the night of Sept. 17 found Becky Friedli’s body burning in a wheelbarrow about 70 feet from the house. After firefighters doused the blaze, they found the bodies of Hayward and Vicki Friedli inside the house; both had been shot, according to the D.A.’s office.
A friend of Becky Friedli’s told investigators that she had told him on the phone earlier that evening that she was waiting for Pape and Smith so the three could go hiking.
”Pape later told investigators that he and Smith decided not to go hiking with Becky and instead the two men were only with each other the night of the murders,” Hall said.
DNA matched to Smith was found on a business card found near what investigators believed was the starting point of a trail left by the wheelbarrow containing Friedli’s body, according to Hall. Smith said he’d never been to the Friedli home, the spokesman said.
”The chance that such a DNA match could happen at random is 1 in 320,000,” he said.
According to a grand jury affidavit, Pape’s and Smith’s phones were shut off between 7 and 11 p.m. the night of the killings, and in October 2007, three 12-gauge shotguns and a holster for a Glock handgun were found at the suspects’ homes.
According to the affidavit, Pape and Becky Friedli dated for 15 months before they broke up in January 2006. She reportedly told a friend three weeks before she was killed that Pape had told her ”that if he couldn’t have her, nobody could.”