SOUTH GATE >> Detectives Sunday announced the arrests of two suspects in the cold case slaying of a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran from Rowland Heights found slain inside his burning car in South Gate in 2006, authorities said.
U.S. Army veteran Jesse Aguilar was found dead inside his car, which was found on fire on Oct. 26, 2006, in the Los Angeles Riverbed near Paramount Boulevard in South Gate, Detective Ray Lugo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Prompted by evidence in the case, prosecutors Wednesday filed charged of murder and torture against Anthony Silvas, 36, and Juan Vallejo, 40, Lugo said. Silvas, who has been considered a person of interest in the case since shortly after it occurred, while Vallejo was identified as a suspect in recent months.
After nine years waiting for justice, Aguilar’s mother, Nancy Aguilar, said she was glad to see the investigation move forward.
“It’s been a relief that there’s going to be accountability,” she said. “I want to look into the killers’ eyes. I want to see them.”
Vallejo, who lived in La Mirada at the time of the slaying, was arrested Wednesday at a home where he was living in Hawaiian Gardens, Lugo said. Silva, a South Whittier resident at the time of Aguilar’s killing, was already in custody in Orange County for an unrelated drug offense.
Lugo declined to discuss details of the killing, due to the ongoing investigation, but said it was motivated by a dispute over money. He said Aguilar and Silvas were friends, and described the victim and Vallejo as acquaintances.
Nancy Aguilar said she herself new little about her son’s death. “I don’t even know how they killed by son,” she said.
Information will emerge as the legal process moves forward.
“Do I want to know everything? No. But I have to,” the mother said.
Aguilar, who grew up in La Mirada and joined the Army in March of 2001, took part in the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, his mother said.
“He went to war and came back in one piece, and I was so thankful,” she said.
He had been back in the U.S. less than two years and was working at the Automobile Club of Southern California in Costa Mesa when he was killed, according to the detective and Jesse Aguilar’s mother.
He never returned home after going to work Oct. 25, Lugo said. After being reported missing, his bound body was found the following day inside his car, which had been set ablaze.
Lugo, along with a team of fellow detectives, has been investigating Aguilar’s slaying since it occurred.
“We weren’t going to give up on this case,” he said.
Nancy Aguilar thanked detectives, and particularly Lugo, for their dedication.
“God sent Ray (Lugo) for this case because he never quits,” she said.
In addition to his parents, Nancy and Frank Aguilar, Jesse Aguilar is survived by two daughters, ages 9 and 14, three sisters and two brothers.
Nancy Lugo said in the years following son’s slaying, she has found comfort and solace in support groups, such as Parents of Murdered Children’s Orange County chapter.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Vallejo is being held in lieu of $1.01 million bail and is scheduled for arraignment Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Silvas remained in custody in Orange County pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, officials said.
PHOTOS: [TOP TO BOTTOM] 1. Jesse Aguilar, 24, of Rowland Heights, was found slain inside his burning car in South Gate on Oct. 26, 2006. Two suspects were charged with his killing nine years later on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Courtesy) 2. Jesse Aguilar poses with an Iraqi boy while serving overseas with the U.S. Army following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Courtesy) 3. Jesse Aguilar spends time with one of his two daughters shortly after returning home from a U.S. Army deployment to Iraq. (Courtesy) 4. The gravesite of Jesse Aguilar, 24, of Rowland Heights, who was found slain inside his burning car in South Gate on Oct. 26, 2006. Two suspects were charged with his killing nine years later on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Courtesy) 5. Jesse Aguilar, a 24-year-old U.S. Army veteran found slain in 2006, is pictured upon his graduation from the Wilshire School of Continuing Education in Fullerton. (Courtesy)