Pictured above: The area of an Ontario backyard where Carmen Montenegro allegedly exhumed a dismembered body Sunday.
Pictured below, at right: The holes Montenegro reportedly dug a month ago during what she said was a gardening project.
Pictured at bottom: The street view of the home where Montenegro allegedly exhumed the body.
ONTARIO — When Matthew Bell moved into his grandmother’s house three weeks ago, there were four large holes in the backyard.
A tenant who rents a room in the Ontario home told Bell that a week earlier, Bell’s cousin, Carmen Montenegro, dug the holes as part of what she described as a gardening project, to beautify the yard with new trees and flowers.
Bell now believes Montenegro’s gardening project was cover for the true purpose of her visit — to bury a dismembered body that she allegedly exhumed Sunday and loaded into a trash can.
Ontario police arrested Montenegro, 51, of San Bernardino, after she reportedly walked 200 yards on residential streets with the trash can containing an unidentified man’s remains.
Bell, 18, said he was at home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue during the entire episode.
He recalled seeing Montenegro throw body parts into the trash can, and he said she offered him $5,000 for help disposing the body.
Bell said he left the home to call police, and Montenegro followed him with the trash can, imploring him for help.
“I still can’t believe it,” Bell said today during an interview at his Holmes Avenue residence. “It’s (like) some crazy movie.”
Bell, who said his mother is Montenegro’s first cousin, said Montenegro came to his home Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with two men he didn’t recognize who may have been day laborers.
She seemed panicked as she came into the living room, where Bell, his girlfriend and his brother were playing video games, Bell recalled.
She paused Bell’s controller and offered the group $100 each if they left the home immediately.
Though Bell said Montenegro didn’t pay them, they left. They walked only about two houses away before Bell said he reconsidered his decision.
“I just had a bad feeling,” he said. “She’s played our family so many times in the past.”
The group walked back to the house. One of the men Montenegro arrived with was waiting in the front driveway with a red Toyota pickup in which the group arrived, Bell said.
Bell said he walked to the backyard with his girlfriend and brother.
He said he saw Montenegro waist-deep in a hole in the back corner of the yard. The other man she came with was standing beside the hole, and both were holding shovels, he said.
When the laborer saw Bell and the two others, he stopped digging. He walked to the front of the home, where he and the other laborer left in the pickup, Bell said.
With Montenegro now lacking assistance and a ride, she panicked further, Bell said.
She offered Bell $5,000 to help her dispose of the body, Bell said. He said he initially considered her offer and put on gloves that she gave him.
Bell said the smell of the corpse was overwhelming, and the sight was gruesome.
He recalled seeing a white trash bag that contained several body parts, including a leg that was severed at the mid section of the thigh.
He said he vomited several times and resolved to leave the backyard and call police.
As he left, he said he saw Montenegro throw body parts into a small wheeled trash can. She called for him to help, Bell said.
“Help me hide him,” she said, according to Bell.
She covered the body with dirt after it was fully loaded into the container, Bell recalled.
Bell said he, his girlfriend and his brother left the home and walked north on Holmes Avenue. Bell said he called the police.
Montenegro followed the group, dragging the trash can with her and pleading for Bell and the others to return, Bell said.
“Matthew, come here,” she said, according to Bell. “You guys, come here.”
She followed them north to H Street, then followed them west along H. Bell said police arrived as Montenegro was three houses west of Holmes Avenue.
Bell said that after Sunday’s incident, his family held a meeting to discuss Montenegro’s arrest. He said he learned during the meeting that last Wednesday, two gunmen reportedly came to Montenegro’s home in San Bernardino.
They threatened her and other family members, Bell said, and stole Montenegro’s purse and car keys.
The men reportedly told Montenegro that they knew she was the last person seen with a man they said was missing, and they demanded she “come clean,” Bell said.
The men stole Montenegro’s car when they left her home, Bell said.
After the robbery, Montenegro was panicked and suicidal, and said she wanted to hang herself, Bell said he learned from his relatives.
Bell said he believes Montenegro felt pressured to move the body because in her stolen car was a copy of Bell’s resume, which contained his Holmes Avenue address.
Bell said he believes Montenegro possibly feared the men who threatened her would use the information to locate the body.
Bell said he first met Montenegro a year ago, having been kept away from her during his childhood due to a rift in the family.
“My mom said she’s the black sheep in the family,” he said.
Bell said the home where the body was buried is owned by his grandmother, but she recently moved in with Bell’s mother in Pasadena due to health issues.
Bell said he lives in the home with several tenants who rent rooms.