A California pool and spa service technician has been charged with first-degree murder in the November death of a 93-year-old woman.
Benjamin Briones, 60, was arrested by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigators on Dec. 3 and booked without bail into the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio, California. He pleaded not guilty to the murder during his court appearance on Dec. 9 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, on Nov. 30, Palm Desert Station deputies responded to a report of a suspicious death at the residence of Jean Grace Willrich, the 93-yearold victim. When deputies arrived, they found a deceased female inside the residence suffering from trauma to her body consistent with a homicide. The scene was secured, and the Central Homicide Unit responded and assumed the investigation.
Briones, a resident of Thousand Palms and self-employed pool serviceman, was arrested three days later near Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra Drives in Rancho Mirage.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed one felony count each of murder, burglary and forging a signature against Briones, who pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment at the Larson Justice Center on Dec. 9.
According to the charging document, Willrich’s murder was “for financial gain.”
Investigators say Briones entered Willrich’s Michigan Drive home on or about Nov. 29 “with the intent to commit theft and a felony.”
They say that Briones unlawfully signed a check to be drawn from Willrich’s account in the amount of $7,650.
A felony settlement conference was scheduled for Dec. 20. Briones will remain in custody without bail.
Anyone with information on the death of Willrich is urged to call Investigator Castaneda with the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit at 951-955-2777 or Investigator Chua of the Palm Desert Sheriff Station at 760-836-1600.
Benjamin Briones Photo credit: News Channel 3 YouTube