SANTA ANA, Calif. (KTLA) — Police say the remains found in the backyard of a home in Santa Ana are those of the former homeowner’s father.
Larry Dominguez, 65, was already behind bars on suspicion of homicide. But now, he’s also facing embezzlement charges.
Detectives say they believe Dominguez buried his father in the backyard in order to continue fraudulently receiving his social security benefits — totaling more than $100,000.
Prosecutors allege that Dominguez, 65, collected more than $1,100 a month between his father’s death in May 2005 and January of this year.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of four years in prison.
Prosecutors filed the embezzlement charges as authorities continue to investigate the manner of death, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said, adding “there’s a lot of work to be done.”
The coroner will have to determine how the victim died before any charges can be filed.
The investigation began after new homeowner Philip Mendez began a landscaping project at Dominguez’s former home in the 2500 block of North Hesperian.
During the excavating, family members dug up a human skull and other bones.
Mendez, who used to live next door, bought the home from Dominguez back in 2006, after it had burned down and was rebuilt.
Prior to that, Dominguez had lived at the house for about 20 years with his father, Wallace Dominguez.
Authorities say they do not have a death certificate for the elder Dominguez and do not know how he died.
According to Mendez, before he moved in, Dominguez told him that bones were buried in the backyard.
“First he said it was a dog, and then later he said there were puppies that his sister wanted,” Mendez told KTLA.
“He had to check with his sister, see if she still wanted to keep them. Cause he wanted to come get them.”
A police anthropologist was brought in on Monday to remove the bones. A cadaver dog was also brought in to search the rest of the yard.
Meantime, former neighbors describe Dominguez as a packrat who always seemed a little strange.
“He was said to be pretty weird,” one man told KTLA. “Just strange… Like when his house burned down he was found naked in the kitchen.”
Another neighbor said he has known Dominguez for years. He said different people would go in and out of the home, but he never thought much of it.
“We talked about once a month,” he said. “He’s very articulate, he’s a very gentle soul that I know of. I’ve never seen any anger that he expressed.”