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Crime News Murders

Missing 19-Year-Old California Woman Found Dead in Orchard, and Her Ex-Boyfriend and His Pal Are Jailed

Melanie Stephanie Rios Camacho aspired to be a teacher, her family said. Her ex-boyfriend, Vicente Jasso, and his friend Jose Lopez-Hernandez were arrested in her death.

By Dorian Geiger
A police handout of Stephanie Rios Camacho

A pair of men were nabbed by police after the remains of a missing 19-year-old California woman were found in an orchard this week.

Vicente Alexandro Jasso, 23, and Jose Cornelio Lopez-Hernandez, 22, were arrested in connection with the death of Melanie Stephanie Rios Camacho, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday evening. 

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Jasso, Camacho’s ex-boyfriend, was charged with her murder after leading police on a high speed pursuit on Monday. Jasso's friend, Lopez-Hernandez, faces an accessory to murder charge in relation to the case. The two arrests come amidst the discovery of Camacho’s remains in an orchard off Avenue 20 in Madera earlier this week.

When was Melanie Camacho last seen alive?

Camacho vanished on Friday after leaving her job at AutoZone on Gateway Drive in Madera at around 10:15 p.m., authorities said. Her family reported her missing the following morning when she didn’t return home. Camacho’s mother disclosed to police that her daughter had told her she’d gone to hang out with a friend after work Friday. Camacho failed to show up at work on Saturday, and when authorities talked to the friend she told her mother she was meeting, the friend revealed that they didn't meet up after work, and that Camacho was actually going to meet an ex. 

A police handout of Vicente Jasso and Jose Lopez-Hernandez

Hours afterwards, Camacho’s 2014 Nissan Altima was found abandoned and on fire in a rural area off Avenue 14 near Road 8. Witnesses reported seeing a blue Ford Mustang with a black hood driving in the vicinity of Camacho’s torched sedan. Using surveillance footage, detectives later traced the Ford to Lopez-Hernandez, whom the sports car was registered to. 

“The witness witnessed a blue Ford Mustang with a black hood past his location on the street, with one person inside... then returned to his location with two persons inside," Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue said at a news briefing on Monday, KMPH-TV reported.

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After Lopez-Hernandez was brought in for questioning and his Madera home was searched, authorities say they obtained information that led them to the orchard where Camacho’s body was recovered on Sunday. Investigators subsequently identified Camacho’s ex-boyfriend, Jasso, as a suspect, 

According to officials, Jasso and Camacho had been dating for roughly three months, and the couple had broken up days before Thanksgiving. 

Vicente Jasso arrested after a high-speed chase

Jasso was arrested on Monday following a high-speed chase on Highway 99 that topped speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, KMPH-TV reported. Jasso, who authorities said fled on foot after his van was rendered immobile by a spike strip set out by state troopers, was found hiding in a backyard bush of an Atwater home, according to the outlet. He was taken into custody without further incident. 

"I heard a helicopter outside,” Joe Madril, the homeowner of the property where Jasso was arrested, told KFSN-TV. “I went outside, and the helicopter was circling overhead. Then I heard on the bullhorn, 'You're surrounded. Put your hands up.' As I looked over, I saw a guy coming out from between the shrubs here in my backyard.”

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During the chase, police say Jasso tossed Camacho’s driver's license and other personal items out the window of his speeding vehicle. The highway pursuit spanned three counties and approximately 80 miles.

Camacho would have turned 20 on Friday. Her family has launched a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help cover funeral expenses for the young woman. Camachos, an only child who had graduated from Firebaugh High School, aspired to be a teacher, relatives said. 

"To the family of Melanie, we are deeply sorry for your loss,” Pogue added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Jasso was also charged with recklessly evading a peace officer. He’s currently in custody at a Madera County detention facility, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. His bond was set at $1 million on the murder charge. It’s unclear if Jasso has retained legal counsel to comment on his behalf.

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