BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A pickup followed Desiree Thompson as she walked alone at night in California City.

Thompson was going through a rough patch. Early that morning, her estranged husband allegedly assaulted her and threatened her with a shotgun. He fled before police arrived.

She told a friend she feared for her life.

That evening, Thompson walked to the friend’s house. They talked for a couple hours. She called her mother at about 8:30 p.m. then left for home.

The pickup slowed as it came alongside. Its driver asked if she’d join him for a drink.

Maybe Thompson, having gone through a tumultuous 24 hours, appreciated the friendly offer. Maybe the thought of a beer and making a new friend appealed to her.

Her thoughts at that moment will never be known, but authorities believe she got in the pickup.

And they suspect the driver, Jose William Lara, killed her and buried her in the backyard of a home he rented in the 20300 block of 86th Street, according to court filings.

Ten years after Thompson disappeared, two men reported Lara had confessed to them about killing a woman matching her description.

Human remains were dug up at Lara’s former home last month. Although not yet positively identified, they are believed to be Thompson’s.

Lara has pleaded not guilty to murder. He’s held without bail and due back in court next month.

Gone with no leads

When Thompson disappeared, her husband, Edward Gibson III, became a person of interest based on the alleged violent interactions she had with him.

Gibson left town and court documents released earlier this month indicate authorities never managed to locate him.

While Thompson’s disappearance was suspicious, there wasn’t a body or other evidence confirming her death. And while it would have been out of character, it was possible she decided to leave her old life behind, start fresh somewhere new.

Her name was entered into a missing persons database. Buccal swabs were collected from family to create a DNA profile for her.

Years passed without a breakthrough. Her loved ones wondered where she was, what had happened to her.

Police have previously told 17 News a lack of resources and turnover in personnel delayed the investigation.

Witnesses come forward

A social media post about Thompson on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance caused a man to break down in tears.

The man, his name among many redacted in court documents regarding the case, felt guilty. An acquaintance years ago had confessed to killing a woman, and he had stayed silent.

He decided it was finally time to come forward.

The man and his father — who was interviewed separately by California City police — shared the following story:

Years ago, he and his father met Lara at church, the man told police. They became friends and played pool and soccer.

Lara had been married, but his wife died of cancer.

One Sunday, playing soccer and drinking beer, Lara and the man took a break. The man said Lara, who appeared drunk, began telling a disturbing tale.

Lara related how years ago he attended a “Diablo party” in California City. Everyone wore black, there were costumes with horns and Mohawk haircuts.

A couple men “disrespected” him at the party, the man said Lara told him. They pushed him down and threw him out.

Furious, Lara went home but returned in his pickup, the man told police. He wanted revenge.

He saw two people walking down the street. They split up and Lara approached one of them, according to the account given by the man.

Lara saw the person wasn’t a partygoer but a “Black or half-Black female.” It didn’t matter. The man said Lara told him he was so angry he would take his anger out on anyone.

He invited the woman home for a drink. She agreed and got in his truck.

Once home, Lara told the woman to grab a beer from a small refrigerator in his bedroom, the man said. When she reached inside, Lara pushed her head into the fridge then repeatedly stabbed her, the man said.

He told police Lara said he buried the woman in his backyard, covering the area with a tarp and piece of plywood. Lara claimed he later dug up her body and moved it to the desert.

Lara showed no remorse, the man said. He appeared to be bragging about the murder.

A few months before sharing this grisly story, the man said he remembered Lara had come to his parents’ home with a severe cut on his hand. His parents took him to a hospital.

Afterward, they stopped hanging out with Lara, the man told police. He said Lara has told several people he killed a woman.

“When Lara drinks he talks a lot,” the man said.

A tip from 2012?

The man’s father was also interviewed. He said Lara told him about the murder, too.

The father said he wished he had come forward earlier, but he was afraid of getting deported.

He gave investigators an envelope containing a typed letter summarizing what Lara told him and a diagram of Lara’s former home on 86th Street, according to the documents.

The man said he delivered the letter — marked “Anonymous Tip” — to the California City Police Department in 2012. Investigators found no documentation or evidence they received it.

The letter contained the same story the son had shared. The father also confirmed Lara arrived at his home with a bad cut and claimed he got it fighting with men at the Diablo party.

They took Lara to the hospital. Lara gave an alias to hospital staff and said he didn’t know who cut him, the father said. Police weren’t notified.

Two or three weeks later, Lara told the father about killing the woman, the father said according to the documents. He said Lara pointed to the part of the bedroom where he stabbed the woman.

Lara said he used a machete on the woman, the father told police. He burned his and the woman’s clothes in a barrel in the backyard.

The father said he has experienced nightmares over what Lara told him. Sometimes he leaves the bedroom and cries.

Decade-old crime scene

Police served a search warrant March 25 at the home on 86th Street. Lara had since moved and the current residents cooperated.

Human remains were found in the location given by informants, the documents say. Bones, teeth, hair, clothing and a shoe were among the items recovered.

The coroner’s office is working to identify the remains, but authorities have said they believe they belong to Thompson.

Portions of laminated flooring in the master bedroom were removed and areas on the concrete floor and drywall tested positive for blood, the reports say. Swab samples and a section of drywall were collected and booked into evidence.

Meanwhile, FBI agents conducted surveillance at Lara’s apartment in the 8000 block of California City Boulevard. Agents watched him leave with a small dog.

Fearing Lara might flee, the agents informed the command post. Investigators detained him at a gas station. Lara asked them to return his dog to his apartment.

Officers found a 24-inch machete in the apartment, according to the documents. They seized it, a beaded bracelet and six cellphones.

Suspect interviewed

Brought to an interview room, Lara said he moved out of the house on 86th Street within a year of his wife dying in January 2011.

Lara told police he had a pool table at the house. Friends from church would come over and play. He mentioned one of the informants.

Asked about injuries to his hands, Lara told investigators about the Diablo party and how one of the men he fought attacked him with a knife. Lara said he was angry after the fight and spent the night at a friend’s home. He said he did not know the friend’s last name.

Investigators asked about his temper. When he gets mad, Lara said, he takes a walk to cool down. He said his anger is why he no longer has many friends.

The questioning eventually got to the reason why he was there: Detectives told him they believed he killed someone.

Lara denied it.

They asked what was in his backyard. He said he put plants there.

“Investigators told Lara they knew he cut his hand when he stabbed the woman and that we found her remains in the backyard,” the reports say. “Lara continued to deny everything and said he knows nothing.”

“Lara said, ‘You have what you have, bring it,” the reports say.