PHOENIX — Authorities have found the bodies of a man and a woman in Pinal County that could be those of a missing couple and have charged a man with two counts of first-degree murder.
Jose Valenzuela, 38, told investigators he was high on methamphetamine when he killed Tina and Mike Careccia with a .22-caliber revolver.
The sheriff’s office said early Thursday that deputies searched a property near Maricopa and recovered two bodies in Valenzuela’s backyard.
Authorities had begun to suspect foul play in their disappearance and finally were able to get a search warrant for Valenzuela’s property. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said the couple and Valenzuela were involved in a disagreement at Valenzuela’s family home when the couple was shot and killed. Valenzuela said he knew the couple for two years and would do drugs with them.
A witness said he tried to stop Valenzuela but left when he felt his life was threatened.
The bodies were dug up from the backyard. Babeu said Valenzuela borrowed a backhoe to bury the bodies and covered the grave with debris.
Valenzuela had the murder weapon when he was arrested.
Volunteers had been combing the desert quite a distance from the Careccias’ home. The pair disappeared June 22. Michael Careccia, 44, had been driving his 42-year-old wife to work around 5 a.m.
When the couple hadn’t returned by 7 that evening, the man’s teen son called authorities to report them missing.
Their car was found abandoned not far from the their house.
Tina Careccia, 42, is an accountant for a Chandler construction company, and her husband is a pilot.
Search and rescue teams had gone door to door in the town located about 35 miles south of Phoenix in an attempt to try to get more information about the couple.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.