The bodies of two San Ysidro parents who were reported missing by their three children days before Christmas were found in a vehicle at a Campo casino in what appears to be a murder-suicide, police said.
The bodies of Melissa and Johnny Soto were found by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Tuesday afternoon in a car at the Golden Acorn Casino, San Diego police said Wednesday. The man suffered a gunshot wound to the head and the woman’s injuries remain under investigation, SDPD said.
“Her death is being investigated as a homicide, with her husband the only suspect in what appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence,” SDPD Lt. Steve Shebloski said in a news release.
Although SDPD has not publicly identified the bodies, family members confirmed to NBC 7 that they have been identified as the Sotos, who were reported missing on December 20.
NBC 7’s Shandel Menezes speaks with family and neighbors after their sixth day of searching for answers.
San Diego police said there may have been a domestic violence incident before the couple disappeared. Detectives are still investigating and have not provided any information on what may have happened the night they were last seen.
The recently separated Sotos were last seen by their youngest son, Vincent.
“It was like a normal night,” Vincent remembers. “He was just sitting here watching TV like he always does. And my parents, they always talk. He asked me, “Hey, Vinny, can you go for a minute?” We’ll talk. So I left the house without assuming anything.
Vincent waited about an hour and a half before his father texted him saying they were gone and he could come home. As hours passed without the parents returning, the siblings began to worry. They called police the next morning and contacted their aunt Christina Sandoval.
“They left with no clothes,” Sandoval told NBC 7. “They left with nothing. All of his clothes that he normally wears, like the sweatshirts there in the bedroom. His phone was left here. His wallet was left here. His keys were left here and then his phone was turned off about 15 to 20 minutes after he left here.
Those close to Melissa and Johnny told NBC 7 that the couple’s marriage was difficult. After more than 20 years together, they separated in July.
Neighbors’ surveillance video appears to show the last moments the couple could be seen. Around 8:51 p.m., the video shows a car that could be Melissa’s pulling into the driveway of the Soto house. According to neighbor Raymond Arzola, a man appeared to get out of the driver’s seat. Then, at 10:19 p.m., the same car pulled out of the driveway, turned around, and reversed back into the driveway.
Another neighbor’s surveillance video shows the garage door and car trunk open six minutes later. Arzola thinks Johnny can be seen in the video. The family said police checked the trunk and found nothing.
Arzola said he saw a man get back into his silver Toyota Tacoma before driving away at 10:33 p.m. He added that he never saw Melissa on his surveillance footage.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or emailing an SMS to LOVEIS at 22522.
Click here for domestic violence resources in San Diego County and here for considerations for those experiencing domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or live chat on 988lifeline.org. You can also visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional support.
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