The body of a Moses Lake mother of three was found in rural Walla Walla County more than two months after she went missing, according to the Moses Lake Police Department.
Her ex-boyfriend, Juan Gastelum, 27, of Hermiston, faces a murder charge stemming from her death.
Yanira Cedillos went missing March 3 while out celebrating her 30th birthday at the Moses Lake-based Papa’s Casino, local law enforcement wrote in a March 10 social media post.
Witnesses reportedly told police Cedillos has been contacted dozens of times throughout the night by Gastelum, who asked Cedillos about her whereabouts and activities that evening.
Shortly before midnight March 3, Cedillos and some friends were in the parking lot of the bar when an argument broke out among the friends and Cedillos left the area on foot, according to the Moses Lake Police Department.
A short time later, Cedillos reportedly called a friend and asked to be picked up. When the friend arrived a short time later, they were unable to locate Cedillos, so they called her.
When Cedillos picked up the phone, a man could be heard yelling in the background, asking who was calling Cedillos before the phone disconnected, according to the Moses Lake Police Department.
Shortly after, Cedillos reportedly called the friend back and told them that she was ok.
This was reportedly the last anyone heard from her. When Cedillos didn’t appear at work on March 4, her family reported her missing.
Detectives determined Gastelum had picked Cedillos up and taken her back to her apartments, according to a March 10 statement by Moses Lake police. Evidence police found at the scene reportedly indicated Cedillos was killed inside of her apartment and her body was later moved.
After days of investigating and following Gastelum, police on March 9 arrested the Hermiston man on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree rape.
Still, for more than two months, Cedillos’ body could not be located. But on May 12, using data from Gastelum’s cellphone, Moses Lake detectives were able to find her.
Cellphone data obtained by law enforcement typically shows the distance of a particular device from nearby cell towers, which can be triangulated to roughly locate where the device was at a particular point in time.
Detectives received assistance from ZETX Advancing Justice, a private business that mapped out the data to make it more useful to law enforcement, Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr said 16.
With this information, law enforcement reportedly found Gastelum’s device had allegedly been off U.S. Highway 12 just outside of Wallula Junction for several minutes the morning that Cedillos was reported missing.
Not long after detectives arrived at that location, the body of a deceased woman was discovered in a sleeping bag covered with tree limbs and leaves, according to the Moses Lake Police Department.
The Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol Crime Lab and the Walla Walla County Coroner were called to assist in processing the crime scene.
Law enforcement were not immediately able to positively identify the deceased woman was Cedillos. The body was reportedly transported to the Spokane County medical examiner for an autopsy on May 16, which determined the body was that of Cedillos.
“Detectives will now focus on working with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office to obtain a conviction in this horrific incident,” the police department wrote on social media.
Fuhr said he was proud of the work of the detectives who brought Cedillos home.
“They have gone above and beyond to make sure they did everything in their power to find Yanira,” Fuhr said. “None of us wanted this outcome, but we knew we wanted to get her back for her family, and that we’ve accomplished.”