A missing Arizona woman was found dead inside the trunk of a car on Tuesday after police said her estranged boyfriend forced his way into her home and drove her body to California.
Richard Rodriguez, 34, was arrested in California and accused of murder in connection to the disappearance and death of his ex-girlfriend, Christi Romero, 54, according to a press release from the Holbrook, Arizona, police department. Her body was discovered inside the trunk of a car more than 550 miles from her home city.
According to Holbrook police, Rodriguez had been served a restraining order on Nov. 2 and was removed from the home he shared with Romero days before she was reported missing.
Holbrook police were called to Romero’s home multiple times while Rodriguez lived with her, citing different domestic disputes involving finances, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Oct. 17, Rodriguez called the police after Romero wanted to kick him out the house, but they ultimately agreed to live together if they stayed in separate rooms.
The last incident before Romero’s disappearance occurred on Nov. 1, a day before Rodriguez was removed from the home, when Romero told authorities that he would harm her and her car, Holbrook police told the newspaper.
According to the outlet, Rodriguez denied the allegation and ultimately moved into an unhoused shelter.
Romero’s family reported her missing on Monday, after they told Holbrook police she was not answering her phone, police said.
Responding officers who arrived at Romero’s home found she and her car were missing. They also found evidence that someone had forced their way into her home, and began a nationwide search for Rodriguez, Romero and Romero’s car.
In a separate press release, Holbrook police said they suspected Rodriguez of forcing himself into Romero’s home and forcing her to leave, adding she had a 9mm handgun which was not found at the scene and was believed to be in her estranged boyfriend’s possession.
Police said phone location data revealed that Romero’s car was traveling towards California, and law enforcement there were made aware of the situation.
Officers from California’s Huntington Beach Police Department responded to Rodriguez’s parents’ home on Tuesday after a report of a family disturbance. When they arrived, they found Romero’s body inside the trunk of a vehicle, police said on Facebook in a Tuesday evening update.
Romero’s family mourned her death in a GoFundMe launched to offset funeral arrangements and transport her body back to Arizona.
“We unfortunately got the answers we didn’t want and Christi is now at peace,” the fundraiser read. “We are now working to bring her home so anything helps we just want her home and laid to rest now.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.