This article originally appeared in the April 21, 2016 issue of The Press Enterprise. View clip online.
When Banning police arrived at the scene of a homicide last week, they found the mobile home ransacked, blood all over, and the 78-year-old victim on a bedroom floor with bruising on her neck and a possible defensive wound on her hand.
The oven was on, and inside were a revolver, a bullet and a kerosene lamp with fuel.
The following morning, the victim’s granddaughter was discovered hanging from a tree about 200 yards away from her grandmother’s car, which had been abandoned on the side of Gilman Springs Road some 16 miles away.
Those details were laid out in an affidavit written by Banning police Sgt. Robert Fisher seeking a warrant to search the car, a red 2012 Ford Fiesta. The affidavit also identified both grandmother and granddaughter: Roberta Joan Waddle, 78, and Megan Kelley, 24. Authorities had not publicly released their names after they were found dead on April 10 and 11.
Police also have not said whether they consider Kelley a potential victim or suspect, and the court documents say nothing about why they think either woman died.
The affidavit did say police believed the weapon used against Waddle might be inside the car. The search might be necessary to prove what led to and caused her injuries, and may “circumstantially identify the perpetrator of the crime,” Fisher wrote.
In addition to weapons, the affidavit asked to search the car for a cutting instrument, electronic storage devices, cellphones, computers and other communication devices.
The car was searched April 13. Items collected included a California identification card, fingerprints, possible blood and DNA evidence, $22 in cash, a wallet and a purse. Records do not indicate any weapon was found.
Banning police did not respond Wednesday to a request for an update on the investigation’s status.
The affidavit revealed Waddle’s body was found April 10 by her daughter and Kelley’s mother, Jena Waddle of Phelan, inside a mobile home in the 4100 block of West Wilson Street.
Jena Waddle told a detective that she had dropped her daughter off there for a visit the previous afternoon. On April 10, she was not able to reach her mother by phone, she said, so she drove back to Banning to check if she was OK and to pick up her daughter.
Waddle noticed her mother’s car was missing and the back door was open. She said she went inside and found her mother’s body.
Her daughter wasn’t there, and didn’t answer her phone, Waddle told the detective.
Medical personnel and police, called out just before 5 p.m., were met by a violent crime scene. Blood was found on Roberta Waddle’s left hand and a nearby photo frame. In the room where she was found, her purse and its contents were strewn atop a bed.
Another bedroom had been ransacked, and blood was on the bedding and floor. A trail of blood led from that room to a bathroom, where more blood was on the floor and wall. A back entryway and the living room also were bloody.
The bruising on Waddle’s neck suggested she might have been choked, while the blood on her left hand indicated she might have tried to defend herself against a sharp instrument, the affidavit stated. Her right cheek had a small cut.
Waddle’s neighbor, Marion Adrian, told a reporter that she told Banning police she heard noises like “somebody throwing things around” in Waddle’s home the morning of April 9, the day before Waddle’s body was found. She said she heard “no screaming or people noises.”
Adrian also heard what she said sounded like a car’s trunk and doors slamming open and shut.
Her interview with police was not mentioned in the affidavit seeking the search warrant for the car.
Adrian said Kelley previously had lived with Waddle – whom Adrian knew as “Bobby” – though not since late last summer. Adrian described both grandmother and granddaughter as low-key and sweet, and the younger woman as dedicated to her grandmother.