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Couple Tortured, Killed Vietnam Vet For Financial Info And Burned Him In Front Of Kids, Cops Say

"It’s quite tragic that they would involve their children," a police captain said. 

By Jon Silman

A California couple beat and tortured a Vietnam War veteran for his financial information, police say, and then burned his body in the countryside while their children watched.

Fresno couple Jose Mendoza, 36, and Stacie Mendoza, 38, allegedly went to the home of Kenneth Coyle April 5 or 6 and restrained, beat and suffocated him, according to the Hartford Sentinel. In a press conference Monday, Hanford Police Captain Karl Anderson said although there's no official cause of death yet, he suspects it's blunt force trauma and suffocation.

He said that after the couple murdered Coyle, they took the body to rural Madera County with their children and burned the remains as they watched. 

"We know the children were taken too when the body was burned and watched the body burn," Anderson said, according to ABC 30 in Fresno. “It’s quite tragic that they would involve their children to witness and be a part of these horrible crimes."

Anderson described Coyle, 70, as a retired Vietnam vet who used to work as a civilian contractor at a Naval Air Station. He was a nice man without children, Anderson said, who enjoyed meeting people in restaurants and sharing stories about his life.

That's how he met Stacie Mendoza, in a local restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The two became friendly and within a few months she had access to his bank information and started stealing from him, The Hartford Sentinel reported.

Things turned violent when Stacie Mendoza and her husband showed up at Coyle's home. They restrained him to a bed and tortured and killed him, police said. After they burned the body, they returned to the house April 12 and were greeted by the landlord, who grew suspicious of the couple's story that Coyle was injured and recovering somewhere else, police said. He called the police and the pair was captured that day at a Denny's near Los Angeles International Airport.

Jose Mendoza had Coyle's credit card and a ticket to El Salvador, his native country.

The couple was arrested for a long list of offenses, including suspicion of murder, torture, elder abuse, child abuse and financial crimes, among other charges. Their three children are in the custody of Child Protective Services.

[Photo: Hanford Police Department]

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