Suspect in 1994 Morongo Valley double murder arrested at Arizona border crossing

Handcuffs

A man wanted in connection to the 1994 murders of two men in Morongo Valley was arrested at the Arizona border crossing, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department announced Friday.

On April 14, 1994, at approximately 11:00 pm., a deputy from the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station conducted a traffic stop on a van after observing the van in the middle of Highway 62 west of Rawson Road. The van had its high beams on and emergency lights flashing.

As the deputy approached the driver, he saw that he was covered in blood with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to his head. The deputy conducted a search of the van and located two men in the back of the van, later identified as Jesus Munoz and Portirio Chavez Cardenas, deceased from multiple gunshot wounds.

Enrique Munoz, the driver, was transported to a local area hospital where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds and released several days later.

Through an extensive investigation, detectives determined that the victims were summoned to a residence in Coachella Valley by one of the suspects. Once at the residence, the victims were assaulted and forced into a van. The van was driven to an unknown dirt road in the Morongo Valley where the victims were shot multiple times.

The suspects abandoned the vehicle at that location and were picked up by an unknown person. Enrique Munoz survived the shooting and was able to drive the van containing the two other victims onto Hwy 62 in the Morongo Valley.

Investigators identified the suspects as Mario Montes Banuelos and Noe Montes Banuelos. Arrest warrants were issued for both suspects however, the suspects were believed to have fled San Bernardino County and were possibly hiding out in Mexico.

Detectives and law enforcement officials worked the case for the next 25 years and, in July of 2018, detectives received information from the United States Marshall’s Service Fugitive Task Force that suspect, Noe Montes Banuelos, was shot and killed in Sonora Mexico on July 7, 2018.

On January 24, 2019, detectives received information that Mario Montes Banuelos was arrested and taken into custody at the Yuma, Arizona border crossing on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

On Friday, January 25th, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office advised detectives that Banuelos had waived extradition. Detectives travelled to Arizona and took custody of Banuelos and transported him back to San Bernardino County.

Banuelos was booked into the Central Detention Center for murder and attempted murder and is being held without bail. He is scheduled for court in Morongo on February 6, 2019.

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