A Phoenix woman whose body was inside a refrigerator that was dumped at a hiking trail near Superior had lethal amounts of cocaine and alcohol in her system.
Lt. Tamatha Villar, Pinal County Sheriff’s spokeswoman, said a medical examiner who conducted the autopsy of Deanna Fuegos released the results of a toxicological examination this week but hasn’t declared an official cause of death.
“Investigators believe this is the largest contributing factor to her death,” Villar said.
Authorities have arrested and charged two East Valley men with concealment and abandonment of a dead body, and one of them, Richard Snider, 40, of Gilbert is scheduled to plead guilty Monday in connection with the case.
Snider and Greg Burden, 28, of Chandler told investigators they moved the body from a friend’s home in the East Valley, according to a sheriff’s report.
According to sheriff’s reports and court records, it appears the foul play in Fuegos’ death came after she had already passed.
“We don’t anticipate any additional arrests,” Villar said.
A steady rain fell on Dec. 15 on the Picket Post Trail, a lush, remote area about eight miles shy of Superior just off U.S. 60.
A group of off-duty Maricopa firefighters were riding horses and quads when one of them came across a tan refrigerator with a black tie-down strap wrapped around it and a bag of lime on top.
One of the men gathered his buddies to come look at it and even joked there might be a body inside.
The firefighter used his pocket knife to slice the tie down and when he opened the door,
“(redacted name) stated that he knew what the smell was and opened the door again to confirm what he had just seen,” a sheriff’s report states.
Fuegos was nude and in a fetal position inside. She wore four rings, bracelets and a necklace. A red wig and a black rain poncho lay on top of her.
She didn’t appear to have been beaten, shot or stabbed, and an autopsy couldn’t determine whether she had been strangled, but it couldn’t rule out strangulation either.
A set of tire tracks led away from the refrigerator, which had scrapes of red paint on it.
Since Fuegos had spent a year in prison a few years before for possessing drug paraphernalia, her fingerprints were on file and detectives with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office made short order of identifying her and finding a lead in the case.
Fuegos’ sister last saw her on Nov. 17 when she left with a man, whom she knew only by a first name, on his motorcycle.
It wasn’t unusual for her to disappear for weeks at a time without contacting family.
Detectives went to the man’s house Dec. 23 and found a red pickup truck.
They spoke to the man and his lawyer, who told investigators he had been with Fuegos in November, but they had an argument and he last saw her storming out of his apartment.
The man’s lawyer also asked investigators if they weren’t looking into whether she died from an overdose.
Detectives in Chandler and Mesa were also hearing chatter on the streets about a body dump, and Snider’s and Burden’s names were coming up.
The men were arrested Jan. 2 in connection with other investigations and taken to the Chandler Police Department, where Pinal investigators questioned them.
Burden told police he was with a friend — the owner of the red truck — and Fuegos one night in November, but he left because the two were arguing.
Burden returned to the man’s home a few days later to get some belongings and he could smell something rotting when he went inside.
He passed an open bedroom door and saw a naked woman laying on her side on the bed.
Snider showed up a short time later to borrow the truck and he was greeted by the smell and the two men acting strange.
They told Snider there was a dead body in the bedroom, and Snider told deputies he “went into 'convict mode,’” according to a sheriff’s report.
He instructed the men he needed a refrigerator, tie-down straps and a bag of lime.
Burden and Snider used the bed sheet to lift Fuegos and place her in the refrigerator.
Snider said he didn’t know Fuegos.
“His only concern was he was now involved in whatever happened and he wanted to get rid of the evidence,” the report states.
Snider drove the refrigerator away in the red truck. He heard about the discovery about a month later on the news.
Burden and Snider could not be reached for comment.
Villar said that although witnesses saw Fuegos using lots of cocaine in the days before she was last seen, investigators haven’t closed the case yet.
“They are going to follow up on that information because the cocaine levels are extremely high,” Villar said.