A couple tortured a Vietnam War veteran in order to gain access to his financial and personal information and then took their children with them when they burned his body in a rural field, police said.
Kenneth Coyle, 70, a Vietnam War veteran and contractor at Naval Air Station Lemoore, became friends with Stacie Mendoza, a restaurant server who befriended him and later killed him with her husband, Jose Mendoza, according to Hanford police.
"We think she manipulated that relationship to gain his trust and defraud him of money," Cpt. Karl Anderson, of the Hanford Police Department, said at a press conference. "As this relationship grew, we know that Ms. Mendoza started getting access to his bank account information and started getting money from him."
Police said Stacie Mendoza began defrauding Coyle a couple of weeks ago, but escalated the grift on April 5 and April 6, when she and her husband restrained Coyle to a bed and beat him in order to get his bank account information, passwords and other personal information, police said.
Days later, the Mendozas loaded Coyle’s body into their car and burned it in a field as their children watched, police said.
The Mendozas returned to Coyle’s house last week to steal more items and were questioned by property management employees. The employees were suspicious of the couple, who said the veteran had been injured and was recovering at a care home, investigators said.
Police arrested Stacie and Jose Mendoza at a Denny’s restaurant near Los Angeles International Airport. Jose Mendoza had Coyle’s credit card and a ticket to El Salvador in his possession, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The couple was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. They are being held without bail. Their children were put in the custody of Child Protective Services.