YUCAIPA – Three suspects were taken into custody last week in connection with a 2011 murder of a 44-year-old Rancho Cucamonga woman.
The suspects, including Michael Angelo Perez, 37, Deserae Lenore James, 24, and Virginia Marie Backlund, 24, all from Beaumont, were arrested after investigators pursued leads into the death of Christine Jo Kunstmann on July 15, 2011. When investigators interviewed the suspects for a third time, Backlund was taken into custody and booked at the West Valley Detention Center for the torture and murder of Kuntsman.
On Monday, Backlund was arraigned in San Bernardino Superior Court. Kunstmann’s body was discovered in 2011, located in a shallow grave on Mile High Ranch Rd., which is an unincorporated area in Yucaipa. One week after her body was discovered, she was positively identified.
Homicide investigators discovered that Kunstmann moved often, but frequently visited friends in the Beaumont area, which is near the Mile High Ranch Rd. site. She spoke regularly with family and friends and was not likely to go long periods of time without contact, said investigators. Detectives learned that she was last seen by family on May 29, 2011 when her family filed a missing persons report on June 16.
On November 1, 2014, the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department’s Cold Case Homicide Detail, Jerry Davenport and Rob Trostle, reopened the case. Once again, they located and re-interviewed several witnesses, which resulted in evidence that identified Perez and James as suspects in the murder.
On January 6, detectives interviewed Perez and James, which led to their arrest. Both were arraigned last week in San Bernardino Superior Court.
All three suspects, who were due back in court on Friday, January 16, are being held on $1 million bail.
Kunstmann was raised in La Crescenta, which is part of Los Angeles County, and was last seen at an apartment complex in Banning, within 10 miles of Mile High Ranch Rd. It was her father, who lives in Nevada, that reported her missing to Nevada authorities.