RIVERSIDE, CA – On January 6, officers were called to the home of 78-year-old Denise Irene Wong, after her family had been unable to reach her, and requested a welfare check.
Upon arrival, officers discovered a broken window, and found Wong's body after entering the home. The house had been burglarized, and her car was also missing, according to a police report.
Later, the same day, her vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run crash in the city of Indio.
With evidence obtained both at Wong's home and at the crash scene, detectives were able to connect Sixto Jesus Garcia Pena, 19, to the grisly crime.
Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez told reporters:
This was a random act of cowardice to one of our more vulnerable community members that should have never happened. But now our focus turns to supporting the forthcoming prosecution and standing with the victim’s family in their pursuit of justice.
Pena's first court appearance is set for Friday.
The victim's family released the following statement on this heinous crime:
Denise Irene Wong was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and a good and kind person. A 50-year resident of Riverside, she also loved her city and her community. We are shocked and heartbroken over her passing. But, we will always remember her warmth, generosity, and smile. We take heart in knowing she lived a life filled with love, faith, and devotion to her family.
We want to thank the Riverside Police Department officers and detectives for the diligence and dedication they devoted to this matter. We also want to thank our friends and colleagues for the outpouring of support they have given us.
At this time, we need time and privacy to process our loss and to grieve our loved one. However, feel free to join our prayers for justice and peace.
Pena has been charged with first-degree murder and three special circumstance allegations, murder during the commission of a robbery, murder during the commission of a burglary, and torture. He is currently being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center without bail.