A 37-year-old Huntington Beach man was arrested Monday on suspicion of killing two women in Westminster, whose bodies were found in Newport Beach, and then possibly setting one of the women's homes on fire, police said.
Christopher Ireland was taken into custody by Westminster police on Monday morning and booked on two counts of murder in the deaths of Yolanda Holtrey, 59, and her friend, whom family identified as 49-year-old Michelle Luke.
The bodies of the two women were found in a field in Newport Beach Monday morning, according to authorities.
This drama began when Orange County Fire Authority firefighters responded to a fire at Holtrey's home in the 5000 block of Northwestern Way on New Year's Day.
The fire was reported at 5:21 a.m., according to OCFA Capt. Larry Kurtz.
"It took about 30 minutes to put out," Kurtz said. "There is no confirmed cause for the fire yet, but it's possibly arson."
That's a sentiment shared by Westminster police. Authorities believe Ireland may have set the fire to cover up the murders.
After the fire at the house was put out, authorities could not locate Holtrey, a fact that sparked the murder investigation and the grisly discovery of the two women's bodies made this morning.
Ireland was arrested after he appeared at the fire scene with his wife, who said they arrived to help. Authorities said his arrest came after neighborhood surveillance video appeared to connect Ireland to the crimes.
Ireland, Westminster police Corporal Alan Aoki said, has had no prior run-ins with law enforcement in Westminster.
"It doesn't make sense," said Samantha Ireland, the suspect's wife. "There was no motive, no fight, no argument."
Samantha Ireland said she and her husband returned home from a New Year's party at Holtrey's house at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning. They both went to sleep, she said.
"I don't remember him leaving the house in the middle of the night; he doesn't remember anything," said Samantha Ireland, who believed her husband may have been sleepwalking.
The two victims and the suspect's wife worked together at Stein Mart in Huntington Beach. Christopher Ireland is a licensed real estate agent working for Realty One Group, Inc. in Rancho Cucamonga with no disciplinary actions on his record, according to California real estate records. Ireland was first licensed as an agent this past August. He had planned to help Holtrey sell her home, Samantha Ireland said.
"I don't know any realtors that would kill their clients," she said. "That's stupid -- why would he do that?"
Aoki said it didn't appear that anyone else but Christopher Ireland was involved in these crimes.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department was assisting Westminster police in this investigation.
Ireland was currently being held in Orange County jail without bail, according to jail records. He is scheduled to head to court on Wednesday for his arraignment.
City News Service contributed to this report.