City News Service

Two Charged With Capital Murder of Firefighter

A search of the vehicle revealed gloves and clothing with blood on it in the trunk, police said.

Two men were charged Thursday with capital murder in connection with the disappearance of a 28-year-old part-time firefighter from West Covina believed to be the person whose burned body was subsequently found in Upland.

Elijah Thomas Rouse, 18, of La Verne, and Shaun Cardarelli, 37, of San Gabriel, are scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 24 in a Pomona courtroom. The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with an allegation that both defendants used a knife in the commission of the crime.

Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against the two. Rouse and Cardarelli were arrested Tuesday by West Covina police in connection with the disappearance of John Brian Mananghaya Aguila, who had been considered missing but now is presumed dead.

Authorities had sought the public's help to find Aguila, but now believe he is no longer alive, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said Wednesday. Investigators are awaiting a positive identification from the San Bernardino County coroner's office of a burned body found in Upland last week.

On Tuesday, police detained three people -- including the two men who were subsequently arrested -- after finding gloves and bloody clothes in the trunk of the firefighter's car, which was found last Friday in San Dimas.

"The checking of the location revealed information that led us to believe that the incident that we're investigating is connected to the body that was found burned in the city of Upland," Lopez said.

Aguila had not reported for work -- he was a part-time Bureau of Land Management firefighter -- or returned home, behavior the family described as uncharacteristic.

"During the investigation, it was learned that on Friday ... the missing (man's) white 2017 Honda Civic had been located and impounded in the city of San Dimas," Lopez said. "Investigators located video surveillance that showed a male leaving from the car and walking away from it. It was determined that this subject was not the missing person."

He said evidence collected "allowed West Covina PD investigators to identify the male seen leaving the missing's vehicle."

Just after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, SWAT officers served a search warrant at a home in the 1400 block of Third Street in La Verne and detained that man whose fingerprints were found in the Honda, and two others, Lopez said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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