A grim update tonight in a bizarre missing persons cases.
When 45-year-old Refugio Torres went missing in early July 2017, court documents suggested detectives feared the worst-that he’d been murdered. It turns out Torres was dead before he was even reported missing, but the coroner’s office says he is not the victim of a homicide.
This news was sparked by an inquiry from our sister station Telemundo Valle Central, where reporters wanted to know what ever happened to the missing persons case that was initially deemed suspicious.
It all began July 1 2017. That’s when family last heard from Torres. On July 5th, they reported him missing to the Bakersfield Police Department.
The investigation heated up when family reportedly spotted Torres’ car in front of a pot shop on Union Avenue…with a convicted killer behind the wheel.
That man was Andrew Franco who was on parole after serving eight years for manslaughter in the beating and stabbing death of a Bakersfield man in 2008.
Franco fled before officers showed up-so the hunt was on.
In a search warrant from July 2017 obtained by 17 news, investigators wrote they felt Torres had been the victim of a violent crime, and they needed to find Franco and question him. A couple weeks later officers did find Franco-and this is where things get murky.
Franco was arrested on a parole violation, but not charged for anything in connection to Torres’ disappearance.
Months later, a body that had been found on July 2, the day after Torres was last heard from, matched to Torres’ DNA. The coroner’s office determined Refugio Torres had died accidentally from thermal burns.Torres’ body was discovered in a field off of Pacheco and Cottonwood Roads. It appeared to firefighters he was set on fire while trying to strip copper wire.
The big unanswered question here is how did Torres’ car come to be in the possession of convicted killer Andrew Franco? We were unable to get an answer from investigators by news time.