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Police: Missing Moses Lake woman likely killed by ex-boyfriend

Police said Thursday that they believe Yanira Cedillos' ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Juan Ismael Gastelum, is responsible for her disappearance.

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The Moses Lake Police Department (MLPD) held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to give an update on the investigation into a woman who went missing nearly a week ago. During the press conference, police said they have evidence to suggest the woman was killed by her ex-boyfriend.

30-year-old Yanira Cedillos was reported missing on March 4, 2022, and has not been seen or heard from since that time. Police said Thursday that they believe her ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Juan Ismael Gastelum, is responsible for her disappearance.

Gastelum was arrested without incident and taken into custody in Hermiston, Ore. on Wednesday night on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree rape. He is currently in custody at the Umatilla County Jail awaiting extradition back to Washington.

According to MLPD Cpt. Mike Williams, officers responded to the Heron Creek Apartments in Moses Lake for a report of a missing person shortly after 10 a.m. on March 4. Officers learned that Cedillos was out celebrating her birthday on the night of March 3 at Papa's Casino in Moses Lake.

Williams said multiple witnesses recalled that "a man she used to live with" was continually trying to get in contact with Cedillos throughout the night. The man was later identified as Gastelum.

Shortly before midnight on March 3, Williams said Cedillos and her friends were in the parking lot of the casino when an argument broke out. Witnesses told police that Cedillos left on foot and began walking south on Stratford Road.

Cedillos reportedly called a friend and asked to be picked up shortly after she left the casino, according to Williams. When the friend arrived at the location Cedillos gave them, the friend was unable to locate her.

When the friend called Cedillos, the friend told police they could hear a man yelling in the background and asking who was calling. The friend said the phone was disconnected after that, but a short time later, Cedillos called the friend and assured them that everything was okay.

This interaction was the last time anyone heard from Cedillos, according to Williams. When she did not show up for work on Friday, her family reported her missing.

Due to the circumstances of the cases, MLPD detectives took over the case.

According to Williams, detectives determined that Gastelum had picked up Cedillos from the 900 block of North Stratford Road. He then allegedly took her back to her apartment shortly after midnight.

Detectives obtained evidence showing that Cedillos was killed in her apartment and her body was moved after she was killed, according to Williams. The last evidence detectives have of her being alive was approximately seven minutes after she and Gastelum arrived at her apartment.

Williams said Gastelum left Cedillos's apartment on the morning of March 4 and drove around the Moses Lake area. He was caught on video surveillance cleaning his car out and disposing of evidence that same morning. Williams said that evidence was later recovered by detectives.

When Gastelum was initially contacted by detectives, Williams said he was cooperative. This led detectives to continue developing the case and to leave Gastelum out of jail in the hopes that he would lead police to Cedillos.

After an arrest warrant was issued in Grant County, Gastelum was taken into custody in Hermiston without incident, according to Williams.

As of Thursday, March 10, police have not located Cedillos. However, Williams said detectives have spent hours searching various areas in the hopes of bringing her home.

Police are still awaiting the results of search warrants and electronic data analysis that Williams said "may narrow the search" or "give them new areas to search." Should police discover new areas to search, they may reach out to the public for assistance.

Williams said MLPD has fielded numerous questions about why certain information was withheld from the public regarding Cedillos' disappearance. He said detectives could not risk releasing any information that could cause Gastelum to flee or stop cooperating, as he unknowingly "provided key evidence" in the case.

Gastelum is currently being held in Umatilla County Jail without bond as he awaits extradition back to Washington.

Moses Lake Police Captain Mike Williams said on Wednesday, March 16 that Gastelum is fighting extradition back to Moses Lake, and it could take weeks or months until he's extradited. 

The investigation is ongoing at this time.

Cedillo's sister Lanny Abundiz has created a GoFundMe to raise money and support for Cedillo's three young children. To make a donation, click here.  

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