Sheriff’s investigators have arrested four suspects in connection to the death last month of a woman whose burning body was discovered in Alpine. Authorities say the motive for the murder was a custody struggle over a newborn baby.

Photo credit: Mass.gov.

Three of the four suspects were arrested April 18 in an El Cajon hotel, according to sheriff’s homicide Lt. Glenn Giannantonio. The fourth was taken into custody the next day at the Santee Sheriff’s Station.

Jessi Mendoza, 29, was arrested April 18 by Sheriff’s Homicide investigators and members of the Fugitive Task Force along with Matthew Williams, 30, and Lauren Huett, 33. Mendoza is charged with murder and arson, and Willams and Huett face charges of conspiracy and accessory. Jennifer Stein, arrested the following day, is also charged with conspiracy and accessory. They are all residents of El Cajon.

The motive for the murder appears to be related to the victim’s attempts to gain custody of Stein and Mendoza’s newborn child, Giannantonio said.

Mendoza, who was being held without bail, Williams and Huett were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in the El Cajon superior court, according to jail records. Bail was set at $20,000 each for Williams and Huett. There was no information available for Stein.

Authorities say Kimberly Hayes, 35, of Lakeside, was killed March 8 in an El Cajon apartment, and her body was dumped and set on fire the following morning. Her body was discovered by an employee of the Sweetwater Authority about 4:55 a.m. March 9 just off Sequan Truck Trail, Giannantonio said. When deputies arrived, the body was still smoldering.

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