A Palm Springs man suspected of robbing and killing a 78- year-old man at his home in a gated community in Cathedral City is expected in court Friday, along with the suspect's girlfriend, who allegedly helped hide and destroy evidence.
Tiberiu Nista, 33, was initially arrested on suspicion of fraud on Jan. 11 at Morongo Casino in Cabazon, where he was allegedly trying to buy alcohol with a credit card belonging to David John Zuniga.
Zuniga was found dead by paramedics who responded to a call for medical aid at a home in the 69000 block of Las Camelias Road in Rio Del Sol Estates about 8 p.m. on Jan. 9, Cathedral City police Sgt. Paul Herrera said.
Authorities concluded Nista contacted Zuniga Jan. 9 with the intent of robbing him, and Zuniga drove Nista to his home, Herrera said. Nista allegedly ``severely assaulted Zuniga in commission of the robbery, which led to his death,'' Herrera said, adding that the victim's 2008 Cadillac CTS and wallet were taken.
Detectives searched Nista's home in the 60100 block of Overture Drive in Palm Springs and found the key to Zuniga's Cadillac, property belonging to the him and other evidence allegedly linking Nista to the crime, according to police.
Police found evidence showing the whereabouts of the car, which was found at a Palm Springs apartment complex. Evidence connecting Nista to the robbery and killing was found in the car, Herrera said.
Nista, already locked up in the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on suspicion of fraud, was re-booked Tuesday on allegations of homicide, felony crimes against an elder adult, robbery, auto theft, possession of stolen property, fraud and forgery. His bail was set at $1.5 million.
Nista's girlfriend, 53-year-old Florence Jean Hanson of Palm Springs, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly helping hide and destroy evidence related to the case, Herrera said. She was being held in Banning in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Both are expected to be arraigned today at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to jail records.