PASCO, Wash. - Two Pasco men are being charged with murder after human remains were discovered along the Columbia River north of Pasco on Thursday. Police believe the remains belong to Michelle Hudnall, a local woman who went missing a few weeks prior.
Witness statements reveal what may have transpired in Hudnall’s disappearance and apparent murder.
WARNING: Readers may find some of the content in this story disturbing.
Hudnall, 40, was reported missing by her mother on June 28. Her mother said they had not spoken since May 11, according to court documents obtained by KAPP-KVEW.
On July 5, decayed human remains presumed to belong to Hudnall were discovered on Carbody Beach north of Pasco.
A short time later, Florentino Jai Castillo, 39, and Benny Lozano Jr., 27, were charged with second-degree murder in her death. Guadelupe Sanchez, 27, was charged with rendering criminal assistance.
On July 4, the day before the remains were discovered by two people walking in the area, a female witness told police she had seen Lozano and Hudnall together at a Tahitian Inn on May 14. Lozano had described Hudnall as his girlfriend.
Later that day, multiple witnesses saw Lozano and Castillo together at an apartment on West Bonneville Street in Pasco. One witness said Lozano walked in carrying a Hudnell over his shoulder, and she appeared to be limp.
A male witness said they brought the woman to a room in the back of the apartment and Castillo proceeded to fondle her deceased body.
The female witness said because Castillo saw them walk in, he forced her into a green van – later identified as Hudnall’s - which Lozano was driving and Sanchez was riding as a passenger. Castillo was driving Sanchez’ green four-door sedan.
The male witness said he was forced by Lozano and Castillo to help dispose of the body.
The witnesses indicated that Hudnall was placed in the trunk of Sanchez’ car and driven to Sagemoor Road and Columbia River Road. Her body was rolled down an embankment and thrown in the river. According to court documents, a witness said the men burned their shoes and gloves. The body was found about 200 yards from where it was disposed.
A third source told detectives he heard from his brother-in-law that Castillo and another guy killed Hudnall north of Road 68. Castillo allegedly traumatized the brother-in-law by telling him what happened and threatened him.
The source said the encounter led his brother-in-law to go to Eastern State Hospital where he was committed for “going insane because of what had happened.” A detective confirmed that he is a patient at the hospital.
Detectives interviewed Castillo and Lozano after their arrests.
Castillo said told detectives he did know Hudnall, Lozano or Sanchez. He denied ever having been inside Sanchez car, but when questioned about DNA, he said he was given a ride from a woman he didn’t know.
Later in the interview, Castillo referred to Lozano as “my homie Benny” despite denying he knew him moments earlier. When detectives pointed out the contradiction, Castillo said he was getting confused and ended the interview.
Lozano told detectives he was driving Hudnall’s van with her riding in the passenger seat. He said Castillo, who was in the back seat, killed her by choking and hitting her over something she said.
He said together, they brought her body into the apartment on West Bonneville Street and put it in the trunk of Sanchez’ vehicle a short time later. He described where the body was dumped, which matched other witness statements. However, he claimed the male witness, who was allegedly forced to come with them, helped Castillo wrap the body in a tarp and throw it the river, not him.
“Even through Benny disclosed how Michelle was assaulted and disposed of, Benny started his interview with several lies,” court documents said. “Benny only disclosed his part in the incident after he was informed that Michelle’s body had been located.”
For this reason along with at least one witness's claim that Lozano killed Hudnall, detectives believe he and Castillo were both involved in the woman’s murder.
Both men are being held on $250,000 bail. Sanchez is being held on $25,000 bail. They are due back in court July 17 for arraignment.
Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel said the remains presumed to be Hudnall's have been sent to a lab in Seattle for DNA testing.
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