RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Two Southland men were arraigned Wednesday on three counts of murder with special circumstances in connection with a cold case in which a Pinyon Pines couple and an 18-year-old woman were killed and their home was set on fire.
Smith, 25, was arrested Tuesday at Palm Springs Airport in connection to the Sept. 17 murder of 18-year-old Becky Friedli, her mother Vickie Friedli, and Vickie’s longtime boyfriend, Jon Howard.
The three were murdered in their Pinyon Pines home near Idyllwild. The house was then set on fire.
Riverside County Sheriff’s investigators also arrested 25-year-old Robert Pape in Salton City Tuesday afternoon.
Ronald Friedli’s daughter was a victim along with her mother and that woman’s boyfriend.
“It’s the first time in 7 and a half years we’ve had some good solid, solid news on the case,” said Friedli, the victim’s father.
Both Pape and Smith were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in the case.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s department arrested them Tuesday afternoon after the grand jury handed down indictments.
KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen obtained a copy of the grand jury affidavit that detailed cell phone pings from the suspects near the crime scene. Investigators also say a business card was found near a wheel barrel in which Becky Friedli’s burned body was found.
Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said the card allegedly contained Smith’s DNA.
“The likelihood of that being a random match is 1 in 320,000,” Hall said.
Smith – a military veteran who the county transported from Washington State to testify before the grand jury – was arrested at the airport before he could jump on his flight to avoid any extradition.
Smith entered a not guilty plea, while Pape asked for his case to be continued while he tries to find attorney for his defense.
Even though the arrests come nearly 8 years after his daughter’s death, Friedli hopes the suspects may now start to feel some of his anguish.
“They know what life was like to have the responsibility of having a job, a wife and so forth,” he said. “And it gives me pleasure to know they’re going to miss that.”
Both men were being held without bail and are due back in court next Tuesday.