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‘Obvious’ Arson Set At Home Where Body Was Found In Backyard

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LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP)  — A fire broke out at a reputed drug house in Los Angeles County late Wednesday where a man’s body was recently unearthed in the backyard, authorities said.

The fire was reported shortly after 8:30 p.m., hours after a man wanted for questioning in the case was arrested.

Officials on the scene told KCAL 9’s Stacey Butler the arson was “obvious.”

The fire caused extensive smoke damage. An arson unit was investigating the cause of the blaze because the house is a crime scene, county Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers said.

Meanwhile Marcos Lomeli, 26, was in custody after surrendering at a motel in Pico Rivera following a brief standoff with a SWAT team, sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said.

Authorities said they had been searching for Lomeli since Saturday when a resident of the shabby house in the unincorporated Lennox area reported being tied up and assaulted by Lomeli and Jenny Salazar after he refused to lend them his truck.

The resident said Lomeli and Salazar, who also lived at the home, told him they needed the truck to move a couple of bodies. He told sheriff’s detectives they took off in the 1984 Chevy truck after assaulting him.

When detectives went to the house Monday, they saw Salazar near a Ford pickup truck that had been reported carjacked Sunday night and arrested her on suspicion of false imprisonment, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Salazar later told authorities that two bodies were buried in the backyard of the home. Investigators went to the home Tuesday and dug up a man’s body that had been wrapped in cloth and plastic.

Coroner’s officials said Wednesday they were still trying to identify it.

Homeowner James Stein, 53, and his wife, Gabriela Stein, were last seen in December and are considered missing.

About a dozen coroner’s investigators and a cadaver-sniffing dog continued probing the ground on Wednesday for more possible remains but found nothing.

The house is a run-down green wooden bungalow near freeways and Los Angeles International Airport.

The front yard was full of disturbed earth. Neighbors said people at the home dug up the yard and had plans to build a fence.

The house was known as a hangout for addicts. Authorities said that several people were living there until about a week ago.

“It’s got a long history of drug abuse … we’re talking decades,” sheriff’s homicide Detective Marcelo Quintero said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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