Bodies found in Cathedral City dumpster identified as homeless couple

Passerby discovers one body inside trash bin, police find second

POSTED: 07:44 PM PDT Mar 17, 2013    UPDATED: 10:00 PM PDT Mar 18, 2013 
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -

Two people found dead in a Cathedral City trash enclosure on Sunday have been identified by police as Diana and Roger James. Originally from Arkansas, Diana, 52, and Roger, 53, had been living in the area for at least five years. 

The couple was married and had been living off and on in the Coachella Valley for at least five years. The couple was homeless/transient and were familiar to merchants and business owners in the East Palm Canyon area of Cathedral City.

Around 11:30 A.M. Sunday, someone reported finding a woman's body inside a dumpster enclosure at 67782 E. Palm Canyon Drive. When police arrived, they found a man's body, as well, Cathedral City police Capt. Chuck Robinson said.

"Both of the deceased persons appeared to be homicide victims," he said.

Both deaths were deemed "suspicious" by the coroner's office, but no information was released on how they died.

The deaths sent shock waves through the homeless community in Cathedral City.  "I can't think of any reason why anybody would do anything like this to any human being, much less these two, because like I said I knew them well," said Todd Walenta, a friend of the couple. 

Cathedral City police spent Monday scouring through the area surrounding the dumpster, talking to business owners and other homeless people.  Now the police must go through all of their witness testimonies, a process Captain Chuck Robinson says can be difficult.  "Generally there's a lot of mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse issues, so we have to be very, very careful, because a lot of the information we get," said Robinson.  "We have to vet that out to make sure it's legitimate."

Walenta says the couple stay away from that part of the culture, that's why he remains in shock about their deaths.  "They weren't involved in drugs or alcohol," said Walenta.  "They were really good people, they kept to themselves.  It's hard for me to imagine, something like this happening to them."

While police continues to follow their leads, Walenta can't help but feel hopeless in  the loss of his friends, and now fear for his own safety.   "That could've been me, sleeping behind that dumpster so you betcha," said Walenta.

Anyone with information about the case was asked to contact police at (760) 770-0300 or (760) 770-0302.