The body of a 40-year-old mother was wrapped in a tarp and dumped in the Columbia River nearly 24 hours after she was beaten and strangled by her boyfriend and his friend, say Pasco police.
Michelle Hudnall was killed on May 14, though her decomposed remains were not found until the evening of July 5.
The discovery, made by two people walking the shoreline in north Pasco, is believed to have been about 200 yards downstream from where her alleged killers disposed of her body.
On Monday, three suspects appeared one after the other in Franklin County Superior Court.
Florentino Jai Castillo, 39, and Benny Rodriguez Lozano Jr., 27, are being held on $250,000 bail each with investigative holds for second-degree murder.
Guadalupe A. Sanchez, 27, is on an investigative hold for first-degree rendering criminal assistance in a murder. The Kennewick woman's bail is $25,000.
Investigators believe Hudnall's body was kept in the trunk of Sanchez's car for a day before the suspects drove north toward rural Franklin County, parked near the river behind a house and a shed, and rolled the body down a steep embankment while burning their own shoes and gloves.
Sanchez has been in custody for driving with a suspended license since just after midnight May 15.
Lozano was locked up July 1 on a different case, and Castillo was arrested July 6 — one day after he finished serving a sentence in the Franklin County jail.
Court documents reviewed by Judge Bruce Spanner on Monday show that when Pasco detectives were investigating an unrelated homicide on June 3, a woman told them about another death that involved seeing Lozano and Castillo "carrying the white girl."
However, the unnamed witness was under the influence of drugs at the time and was not making sense during her interview so she could not provide an accurate description of what she had seen, documents said.
Fast forward one month — after Hudnall's mother filed a missing-person report and a relative passed on a tip about Castillo's alleged involvement — police who recalled that witness' earlier comment tracked her down and were able to get a clearer idea of what happened to Hudnall.
The official missing report was made June 28 by Hudnall's mother, who told Pasco police she last talked with her daughter May 11.
Family reportedly waited to call authorities, then knew something was wrong when she didn't show up to say goodbye to her kids for a summer visit with their father, according to comments on social media.
On July 3, another relative told an officer she'd heard from people that "Jai" and another man killed Hudnall because "she wouldn't shut her f------ mouth," court documents said.
The officer followed up on that report and spoke to a woman who claimed Castillo gave details to her brother-in-law about what he'd done to Hudnall, documents said. Castillo then allegedly threatened the man.
The following day, Detective Jon Davis got that officer's report, discovered Castillo was being named as a suspect in Hudnall's disappearance and realized they needed to press the earlier witness about the circumstances surrounding her "white girl" comment.
That witness, in her follow-up interview, told investigators that Lozano and Hudnall visited her room at the Tahitian Inn on May 14 to get a "sack," documents said.
Lozano identified Hudnall as his girlfriend, the woman said.
Later that night, the witness was asleep in the living room of a Pasco apartment when "Little Benny" walked in with a limp, "white female" draped over his shoulder, court documents said. They went into a bedroom for about 15 minutes.
She was shown a photo lineup and identified Hudnall as the woman on Lozano's shoulder.
The woman reported that Castillo made her leave with the group because she had seen them with Hudnall's body.
Lozano drove Hudnall's van with Sanchez and the witness as passengers, and Castillo drove Sanchez's car with an unnamed passenger.
They went to a farm in Finley and Castillo placed a tarp in the car's trunk. Then they stopped at the Starlite Motel in Pasco, possibly to get drugs, the witness reported. And finally, they drove north to dump the body, she said.
On the trip back to town, Hudnall's van broke down so everyone piled into the car, then being driven by Sanchez, documents said.
After Hudnall's decomposing body was found about 8 p.m. July 5 near Columbia River and Sagemoor roads, Pasco detectives followed up on a report made May 15 to Kennewick police. A man had reported that his brother disclosed helping hide a body and needed to get away from someone.
That witness, in a July 6 interview, corroborated the other witness' story and talked about being in the Pasco apartment May 14 when Castillo and Lozano arrived with a dead woman.
He claimed the body was placed in a back bedroom and covered with a blanket, and Castillo sexually assaulted it before leaving. The man also took police to the location where the body was dumped.
Castillo denied knowing Hudnall, Sanchez and Lozano, though he did refer to the latter as "my homie Benny" during his interview, court documents said. He ended the questioning.
Lozano told detectives that he had been driving the van with Hudnall in the passenger seat when she said something that angered Castillo, who was in the back. Castillo "started to hit and choke her," documents said.
Lozano talked about the body eventually being transferred to the car trunk and staying there for a long period of time. He also claimed that Castillo came up with the plan for disposing of her body.
However, investigators believe Lozano had a greater role in Hudnall's actual death because he initially lied about his involvement and only disclosed details once he was told her body had been found, court documents said.
Sanchez refused to cooperate with the investigation. Detectives said in addition to using her car to transport the body, she failed to contact police "when safe to do so," according to documents.