A California man is in custody, accused in the death of his wife, who was a young mother and rookie Escondido Police officer.
According to Murrieta Police, Freddy Perez-Rodas told homicide investigators Thursday that he killed Officer Laura Perez and burned their home in an attempt to cover up the crime.
Hours earlier, firefighters arrived at the couple’s home on Grand Oaks Court for a house fire. It was just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and fire crews found no victims inside the home. When they responded to the fire, they did find Rodas, who reported that his wife was inside.
Fire investigators responded and "it was determined to be an arson immediately," said Murrietta Police Lt. Tony Conrad.
U.S. & World
News from around the country and around the globe
In addition to determining it was an arson, investigators discovered it was the same address connected to a missing person, 25-year-old Laura Perez.
Less than two hours later, homicide investigators arrested Perez-Rodas who had reported the house fire.
It was during questioning early Thursday that investigators learned the slain Escondido officer had been shot in the chest three times, her body moved to a storage locker in Moreno Valley.
Investigators were at All-Size Storage in Moreno Valley early Thursday morning and had closed off the business until 3 p.m.
Officials said that after Perez-Rodas led investigators to his wife’s body, he was booked on charges of murder, arson and child endangerment.
The couple has a 4-year-old child who was not injured, officials said.
Investigators also said they had recovered the weapon used in the alleged crime.
Laura Perez joined the Escondido Police Department in October 2013. The department had a flag-lowering ceremony in her honor Thursday evening.
Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter described Perez as "a wonderful officer who had a bright future."
"It's never an easy thing. We're going to be one day at a time, " Carter said. "I'm encouraging officers to remember we're here for the victim, which in this case is Laura. For every Laura, there's hundreds out there and we need to continue to do our job."
A department spokesperson said Perez' death is the first violent death of an Escondido police officer on the job or off duty.
Chief Carter will speak at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Escondido Police Fire and Headquarters in the community room. NBC 7 will live stream the news conference.
Download the free NBC 7 mobile app to get alerts for updates on this developing story.