Arrest made after home invasion robbery and murder of elderly Riverside woman

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Authorities have announced the arrest of a man they allege murdered an elderly woman during a home invasion robbery that occurred in Riverside last week.

The victim, since identified as 78-year-old, Denise Irene Wong, of Riverside, was found dead inside her residence, in the 200 block of E. Manfield Street, southeast of W. Big Springs Road and Watkins Drive, in Riverside’s University neighborhood.


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City of Riverside police officers were dispatched to Wong’s home around 7:15 p.m., Wednesday evening, Jan. 6, to conduct a welfare check. They were sent to her home after her family members, who live out of the area, became worried when their elderly relative stopped answering their phone calls.

When responding officers arrived they found a broken window as they were checking the rear of the house, RPD has since reported; saying, “They also observed some items that appeared to be out of place and consistent with a burglary.”

After gaining access to the residence officers discovered Wong, who lived by her herself at the home, deceased from an apparent homicide.

Officials say 19-year-old, Sixto Jesus Garcia Pena, of Palm Springs, was responsible for the home invasion robbery and murder of 78-year-old Denise Wong inside her Riverside home last week. RPD photo

At that time, detectives with the Robbery – Homicide Unit, along with specialists from the department’s Forensics Unit, responded and assumed the investigation. They were assisted by the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, CAL-ID Office, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and the department’s Crime Analysis Unit.

During their subsequent investigation, officials determined Wong had been murdered during a home invasion robbery and that her vehicle had been stolen.

Investigators later learned that Wong’s vehicle had been involved in a hit and run collision in Indio later the same day.

Although the suspect of that hit and run fled the scene prior to officer’s arrival, Wong’s stolen vehicle was impounded and later searched for evidence.

“Based on evidence collected at the scene and vehicle, detectives were quickly able to identify the person suspected in these crimes,” said RPD; who said the suspect was identified as 19-year-old, Sixto Jesus Garcia Pena, of Palm Springs.

Based on the collected evidence and identification of a potential suspect, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Gang Impact Team (GIT) was requested to assist in the investigation and officials from multiple agencies immediately began searching for the suspect throughout the Coachella Valley area.

“Detectives and GIT Task Force members worked tirelessly over the next few days to develop and pursue leads to determine the suspect’s whereabouts,” said RPD.

On the evening of Jan. 9, officials searching for Garcia Pena learned he had been arrested and booked into Imperial County jail for attempted car theft.

After being found in custody, Garcia Pena was later transferred from Imperial County jail and booked into the Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of six felony counts related to the deadly incident, including first-degree murder, first-degree home invasion robbery, first-degree burglary, and other related charges.

Online jail records indicate he remains in custody and is being held without bail.

“This was a random act of cowardice to one of our more vulnerable community members that should have never happened,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez has since stated.

“But now our focus turns to supporting the forthcoming prosecution and standing with the victim’s family in their pursuit of justice,” the Chief went on to say. “The vigorous investigative work by our detectives along with immediate collaboration from our countywide law enforcement partners led to the quick capture of this suspect. We thank all those agencies who were involved.”


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Grieving family members have since released a statement regarding Wong’s cold-blooded and heartless murder, saying, “Denise Irene Wong was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and a good and kind person. A 50-year resident of Riverside, she also loved her city and her community.”

A 50-year resident of Riverside who loved her community, “Denise Irene Wong was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and a good and kind person,” grieving family members have since said.

Asking for “time and privacy to process our loss and to grieve our loved one”, family members also thanked Riverside PD officers and detectives “for the diligence and dedication they devoted to this matter.”

“We are shocked and heartbroken over her passing. But, we will always remember her warmth, generosity, and smile,” Wong’s family continued; adding, “We take heart in knowing she lived a life filled with love, faith, and devotion to her family.”

Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation or alleged suspect is urged to contact Detective Dave Riedeman at (951) 353-7104 or by email. Those wishing to remain anonymous can refer to incident file number 210000507 and can also email [email protected]

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Contact the writer: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including KRCR News Channel 7 and Mountain Echo in Shasta County, Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.