Two men were charged Wednesday with murder in the 2006 killings of three people who were found dead by firefighters responding to a house on fire in the Pinyon Pines area of Riverside County.
Cristin Conrad Smith, 25, and Robert Lars Pape, 25, appeared in court in Riverside Wednesday after a grand jury indictment against them was unsealed. They were charged with three counts of murder each.
Smith pleaded not guilty; Pape’s arraignment was continued to March 18 in Indio, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. They were being held without bail.
They’re accused of killing Jon Hayward, Vicki Friedli, and Vicki’s daughter, Becky Friedli, whose body was found burning in a wheelbarrow about 70 feet from the blazing home where the other two bodies were found, according to the DA’s office.
Becky Friedli had been in a relationship with Pape, and had told a friend she was waiting — on the day she died — to go on a hike with Pape and Smith, the DA’s office stated.
Pape told investigators he had decided not to hike with Becky Friedli and had been only with Smith at the time of the killings, according to the DA’s office.
A business card found at the scene had DNA that matched Smith, the DA’s office said.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department presented the case to prosecutors for a second time last December. After additional investigation, the DA’s office took the case to a criminal grand jury.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for this investigation to reach this point,” District Attorney Paul Zellerbach said in a news release. “Now that charges have been filed against these two men, we are hopeful that this will bring some solace to the victims’ families.”
The victims’ families had hired private investigators and posted a billboard in an effort to help solve the case after a sheriff’s investigation stalled, the Los Angeles Times reported. A $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest was offered in 2009 by the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the newspaper reported.
Pape, who was arrested by sheriff’s and DA investigators Tuesday at the Palm Springs Airport, is eligible for the death penalty. Zellerbach has not decided whether to pursue that punishment.
Smith was 17 at the time of the killings and not eligible for the death penalty. He was arrested by CHP officers in Salton City on Tuesday.
The DA’s office has filed to have Smith tried as an adult.