Valdivia, 37, and his other wife, Rosalina Lopez, 39, have been arrested in connection to Cabrera’s suspected death. Valdivia has been charged with murder and arson, while Lopez has been charged with being an accessory after the fact, the prosecutors in Tulare County, Calif., announced Wednesday.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux told The Washington Post that Valdivia and Lopez claimed to have been married in Mexico in 2007. Sometime after that, they moved illegally to the United States, he said.
Valdivia later met Cabrera and started a romantic relationship with her before ultimately marrying Cabrera to obtain legal status, Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said both Valdivia and Lopez, who were living in the Visalia area in California’s Central Valley, had threatened to hurt Cabrera if she ended the relationship. The sheriff added that “significant digital forensic evidence” support the murder arrests.
Valdivia and Lopez are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 27. It is unclear whether they have attorneys.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said local authorities have asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to place holds on the two suspects.
Witnesses told investigators that Cabrera was last seen with Valdivia just after midnight on June 9, when they left the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, about 30 miles outside of Visalia.
Cabrera’s 2013 Chevrolet Malibu was found abandoned and on fire at 5 a.m. in an orchard about 30 miles away. Boudreaux declined to say how it was set on fire.
“This is a very unique case in that there is not a body,” Boudreaux said. “With the evidence at the scene and what we’ve collected from the suspects, we’re confident that they’re the sole people responsible for her death.”
Boudreaux said Cabrera was aware that her marriage with Valdivia was to obtain legal status.
It remains unclear how long Valdivia and Lopez have been in the country illegally.
Boudreaux said Cabrera used social media several times a day. Her online activity abruptly stopped around the time police found her car.
She is close to her family, including her young children, and was constantly in contact with them, the sheriff said. But that communication, too, suddenly ended.
“The challenge at this point is to convince a jury that our beliefs are true,” Boudreaux said, “and I believe we have enough evidence to support that.”
Around the time Valdivia was arrested for murder, he had just finished a 90-day sentence for cultivating marijuana.