Murrieta police are no longer actively searching for the remains of a 71-year-old woman whose grandson was charged in July on suspicion of murdering her.
Catherine Sutton was reported missing July 14 by a family member; her grandson, 21-year-old Kyle Roger McLean, of Murrieta and an accomplice, 18-year-old Neil Michael Erickson, of Wildomar were arrested July 15 in connection with her disappearance.
Within hours of responding to Sutton’s Graystone Lane home to check on her welfare, Murrieta police had suspected foul play. A search for her body ensued and was focused in Southern California, Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad said at the time.
Monday, he said those efforts had been “exhausted.”
“Our search for Ms. Sutton was discontinued after we exhausted any leads we had [regarding] her whereabouts,” Conrad said in an emailed response to Patch.
“Although finding Ms. Sutton is a high priority for us (as well as for her family) – it is not necessary for us to locate Ms. Sutton’s remains to move forward with prosecution in this case,” the lieutenant said. “If any leads come forward related to Ms. Sutton’s whereabouts we would follow up on those immediately.”
As for the criminal proceedings, Erickson pleaded guilty July 24 to serving as an accessory to Sutton’s murder. He is scheduled to report for sentencing Sept. 6.
Erickson also pleaded guilty to one count of vandalism in another case, involving the spray painting of a wall at Sutton's home July 11.
Court records point to a gruesome disposal of her body.
Erickson allegedly told detectives during questioning that McLean had phoned him the night of July 11 and said they needed to talk. They agreed to meet at a gas station—McLean was allegedly driving Sutton’s car—and McLean told Erickson he had something to show him.
They then reportedly drove separate vehicles to a dirt road in the Winchester area, where McLean allegedly opened the trunk of his grandmother’s car and showed Erickson a dead body, believed to be that of Sutton, according to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant filed by investigator Danny Martin.
The head of the woman was face down and she had a belt wrapped around her neck. McLean hit the dead woman's face twice, according to the documents.
“McLean told Erickson he killed his grandmother (Sutton) and didn’t know what to do,” Martin wrote.
The two then allegedly went back to Sutton’s residence—where McLean had been staying—and discussed what to do with the body.
The next day, the two regrouped and video surveillance from Walmart in Murrieta allegedly shows the men purchased two machetes, gloves, bleach and beer that same day, Martin wrote in his affidavit.
McLean was arraigned July 17. He pleaded not guilty, and is scheduled for his next court appearance at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 27 at Southwest Justice Center, when he will also be arraigned on a sentence-enhancing charge of committing a crime while out on bail.
McLean had previously been arrested April 26 on suspicion of unlawful possession of an opium pipe or paraphernalia.
McLean is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at Southwest Justice Center.
Erickson is being held on $500,000 at the same jail while he awaits sentencing.
Police said the family member who reported Sutton missing had called out of concern after realizing she had not heard from or seen her since July 11. The relative told police that when she stopped by Sutton’s home it smelled of bleach and there were fans running.
Forensic technicians with the California Department of Justice were among the slew of law enforcement that conducted a day-long investigation at the home on Graystone Lane, a cul de sac off of Whitewood Road just east of Interstate 215.
“Based on the evidence in this case, including evidence collected at the possible crime scene at her Murrieta home, it is believed that Sutton has been murdered,” Riverside County District Attorney's Office Spokesman John Hall said when criminal charges were filed against Erickson and McLean. --By Maggie Avants
Editor’s Note: The outcome of these allegations, as well as the facts, may change as the case progresses through the legal system. Not all details of each investigation are made public. All items are alleged to have occurred. There should be no assumption of guilt.