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Rachel Castillo, a California mom of two, has been found dead in a “remote” desert just days after her sister came home to the apartment they shared and discovered a “significant amount of blood” but no sign of the 25-year-old.
Simi Valley Police said Sunday that Rachel’s ex-husband Zarbab Ali, 25, is considered the “primary suspect” in the slaying and has been taken into custody.
Rachel’s sister, Emily Castillo, made the grim discovery Thursday night around 8:31 p.m. after walking into the Wood Ranch area apartment they had shared together with Rachel’s two young children.
Inside the apartment, she found signs of a struggle and a “significant amount of blood” in the home, leading investigators to believe Rachel was “at risk,” according to an earlier statement from police.
“As soon as I saw the blood, that’s when I realized something wasn’t right,” Emily told KABC before her sister’s body was discovered. “So, I called my mom and let her know to come over and then I immediately called 911.”
Rachel’s personal belongings, including her cell phone, car keys and vehicle were still at the apartment, police said.
“I was running around the house trying to see if I could find her somewhere,” Emily said. “I checked her bathroom, under her bed, her closet, my closet, the laundry room, my bathroom and my bedroom but she wasn’t anywhere in there.”
Simi Valley Police arrived at the scene and “suspected that a crime involving serious injury” had occurred and entered Rachel into the missing persons database.
Sunday afternoon detectives discovered her body “in a remote location” in Antelope Valley. While Commander Ritchie Lew declined to provide specifics, he described the area to the Ventura County Star as “out in the desert.”
Rachel’s sister Emily had last seen her Thursday morning around 9:30 a.m., according to The Los Angeles Times.
Her mother, Robyn Castillo, told the outlet that Ali had picked up the couple’s two sons, ages 2 and 5, from the apartment that morning. Rachel had been planning to spend the day working from home; she was a health care navigator for a social services agency.
Police have yet to reveal a cause of death or provide any details about what made them link the crime to Ali.
The 25-year-old was arrested Sunday afternoon at his parent’s home in Victorville, police said.
“This investigation has rapidly evolved over the past few days,” police said. “This case is still under investigation and some details cannot be released due to legal and investigative reasons.”
Rachel’s family previously described her as a “great mother” and “good friend.”
Rachel had been taking online classes at Pepperdine University to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology at the time of her death, according to The Los Angeles Times. She had dreamed of one day becoming a marriage and family therapist.
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