Woman's 70-year-old boyfriend arrested after her body is found in trunk of car set on fire, California police say

California police arrested the 70-year-old boyfriend of a woman weeks after her body was found in the trunk of a car set on fire.

The Tulare Police Department said it received calls at 2 a.m. about a car accident on Feb. 15 in the city of Tulare. When officers responded to the scene on Bardsley Avenue, they saw no signs of a collision on the vehicle despite it being on fire.

Firefighters put out the fire, and then they opened the trunk.

“When they searched the vehicle,” said Sgt. Rosa Moreno, “they were able to locate an unidentified person in the trunk of the vehicle.”

They later identified the body as belonging to 58-year-old Patrice Armstrong of Los Angeles. When police served a search warrant at her home, they determined that it was a crime scene.

During their investigation, police learned that Armstrong had been in a romantic relationship with Rodney Okeith, who is also from Los Angeles. Tulare police were able to locate the man on Wednesday in Visalia. They took him into custody and transported him to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police believe that he killed Armstrong in South Los Angeles, drove the car to Tulare, and then set it on fire with her body in the trunk.

Okeith’s bail was set at $3 million.

Police initially arrested another suspect in her murder identified as 44-year-old Branden Bayilynn Howard. He was facing homicide charges because he owned the car in which she was found. Investigators later said that they believe Howard was responsible for arson but not for killing Armstrong.

The woman’s official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy report.

Moreno said that violence is rare in Tulare.

“We take these cases very seriously, and we are going to do everything that we can to ensure public safety,” she said. “Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of our citizens here in the city of Tulare.”

A man who identified himself as the son of the victim set up a GoFundMe account asking for donations to help her family. It has garnered only $2k of their goal of $7k.

Tulare is a city of about 69k residents in central California between Fresno and Bakersfield.

Here’s more about the arrest:

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