Sheriff: ‘Message’ behind murders at Perris cemetery


PERRIS (CNS) – The Coroner’s Office today released the names of the three men killed execution-style at a Perris cemetery.

The victims were identified as Perris residents Jaime Covarrubias Espindola, 50; Jose Maria Aguilar-Espejel, 38 and Rodrigo Aguilar-Esepjel, according to the coroner’s office.
Riverside County’s sheriff said that three men killed were slain to “send a message for something.”

Sheriff Chad Bianco held a news briefing with Perris Mayor Michael Vargas to provide general details regarding the triple killing that occurred at Perris Valley Cemetery in the 900 block of North Perris Boulevard sometime Sunday night or in the predawn hours Monday.

Though no suspects have been arrested, Bianco said the “regular residents of Perris should not be concerned with their safety. Be aware. Report things that seem abnormal. Because there have been several homicides in the last month doesn’t mean their safety is compromised.”

Bianco said the three Hispanic men were targeted in what appeared to be an “assassination or execution.”

“Three people killed at the same time — that was a message for something, whether it was for someone else, or for them,”  he said. “It certainly is not the norm. We’re trying to figure out why they were there, and who was there with them.”

The sheriff acknowledged hearing of speculation that the men’s deaths may have been tied to the slaying of a 36-year-old restaurateur who was abducted and shot to death on a roadside in Mexico recently. The victim’s grave possibly was the one at which the men’s bodies were laid.

“We’re looking into whether this is gang-related or cartel-related,” the sheriff said.

He said two other recent homicides in Perris were not connected to the latest killings, despite social media gossip.

“They’re not connected to each other in any way, shape or form,” Bianco said. “They have their own fact patterns. But crimes involving drugs are going up, and that is related to the horrible laws and horrible propositions — 47, 57 and (Assembly Bill) 109 — that were voted in.”

Bianco said detectives are working to identify potential suspects, relying in part on surveillance video cameras located throughout the city. He urged anyone with information to contact the Central Homicide Unit at 951-955-2777.

Vargas said the rise in violence citywide was alarming to the entire City Council.

“We think public safety is highly important,” the mayor said. “We know the sheriff will handle the investigation thoroughly. But if residents in the community hear or see something going on, please call the sheriff.”

He said the council will be holding a special session on Feb. 27 to consider whether additional law enforcement resources need to be deployed.

9:40 a.m. Wednesday: This story was updated with the identities of the victims.