Janet Zappala, Mike Tauber
Rialto police have launched a homicide investigation after a woman was found dead inside a burning apartment. Investigators think robbery may have been the motive for the crimes, as Janet Zappala reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on November 3, 2012.
Police believe someone stole an apartment manager's cash, beat her to death, then torched her unit , prompting the evacuation of 60 residents, before disappearing.
The case was uncovered when a fire broke out at 2:20 Saturday morning at the Riverside Apartments in the 600 block of South Riverside Avenue, the Rialto Fire Department said.
Once there, firefighters found an apartment with heavy fire and smoke coming from a downstairs apartment. Outside the burning building, paramedics discovered the body of a female resident, identified by family members as Rosa Hernandez.
She had been beaten, both family members and police said. She was 64.
Police were searching for her killer or killers. Police believe the motive was robbery because Hernandez, who was helping manage the 18-unit complex, kept a large amount of cash in her unit, said Rialto Police Captain Randy DeAnda.
The complex, which accepts Section 8 government-subsidized rents, advertises rates of $895 a month for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit in Rialto, "The Place to live," according to its website.
While detectives interviewed residents outside the complex -- ringed with red wrought iron fencing -- investigators worked behind yellow police tape to collect evidence.
The fire displaced some 60 residents of the lower-to-middle class neighborhood, who were working with the Red Cross to get shelter.
Some of those residents stood on the sidewalk with white blankets draped over their shoulders.
The City of Rialto is placing some residents in the Johnson Community Center, 214 N. Palm Ave. Rialto 92376.