Murder charges were filed Wednesday against a 37-year-old Huntington Beach man accused of killing two acquaintances and then dumping the women's bodies in Newport Beach following a New Year's Eve party in Westminster.
Christopher Ken Ireland, who listed his occupation as real estate agent, was being held without bail pending arraignment. Ireland faces two counts of murder with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, which makes him eligible for the death penalty if convicted, as well as felony counts of arson and aggravated mayhem.
Ireland is accused of killing 59-year-old Yolanda Holtrey and her 49-year-old friend and apparent co-worker, Michelle Luke, both of Huntington Beach.
"They all seemed to be acquaintances," said Westminster police Cpl. Alan Aoki.
The motive for the killings remains under investigation, Aoki said. Also not yet determined is the cause of death, he said. The three were at a New Year's Eve gathering at Holtrey's home when "something transpired, we don't know exactly what or why," and the victims were killed, Aoki said.
Orange County Fire Authority personnel responded to a blaze at Holtrey's home in the 5000 block of Northwestern Way on New Year's Day. The home's interior sustained some fire damage, and investigators suspect the blaze was deliberately set.
The bodies were found on Monday in the weeds near a shopping strip in Newport Beach, Aoki said. Ireland was apprehended at the scene of the fire, Aoki said, adding that investigators collected evidence at the home that appeared to link him to the killings.
Ireland has no prior criminal record in Orange County, according to court records. He 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.
He was first licensed as an agent in August. The suspect's wife worked with the victims at Stein Mart, according to broadcast reports. Samantha Ireland told NBC4 that the couple attended a New Year's Eve party at Holtrey's house and had a good time, then went home.
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"There were no fights, arguments," she told the station. "I don't remember him leaving the house. He doesn't remember anything."