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Arrests Made in Two Cold-Case Homicides in Santa Ana, Anaheim

Arrests have been made arrests in two cold-case killings, authorities said Thursday.

In the older case, John Augustin, a 52-year-old transient, was arrested in connection with the 1998 slaying of an Anaheim woman, said Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.

He was taken into custody Tuesday in Fullerton for the slaying of Irene Ruelaz, said Wyatt. Augustin is being held in the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail and was arraigned Thursday in Orange County Superior Court.

Court records did not list Thursday afternoon the name of the attorney representing Augustin.

Ruelaz was reported missing by family members on April 24, 1998. Then less than a month later on May 3, Ruelaz’ mother and daughter went to her apartment at 1781 W. Ball Road #4 in Anaheim to retrieve property and detected a foul odor, Wyatt said.

Anaheim police officers forced entry into the residence and found Ruelaz’ decomposed body concealed under piles of clothing in a closet, Wyatt said.

Anaheim police are not releasing the cause of Ruelaz’s death, he said.

Over the past several months, Anaheim homicide detectives engaged in a joint investigation with the Orange County Homicide Task Force to reexamine the case that resulted in the arrest of Augustin, Wyatt said. He declined to say what evidence led investigators to arrest Augustin.

In a separate case in Santa Ana, Jose Esteban Cardenas Zuniga, 39, Mammoth Lakes, is charged with one felony count of murder, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Authorities say on Oct. 20, 2007, Zuniga murdered 25-year-old Yacshicka Watts by strangling her and leaving her body outside in a parking area in a business center. Orange County Crime Lab investigators stored DNA evidence from the victim’s body in the state database, and in 2013 the DNA was matched to Zuniga after an unrelated arrest in Northern California, the DA’s Office said.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. He is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 14.


Courtesy of Scott Schewebke, Orange County Register

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