Three men arrested after Hemet murder

HEMET, Calif. — Authorities have announced the arrest of three men in connection with the murder of a Hemet man late last year. The victim’s lifeless body was discovered in the 34000 block of Bautista Road, in an unincorporated Riverside County area in the hills southeast of Hemet, Nov. 30, 2020.


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Deputies from the Hemet Sheriff’s Station began investigating the murder of 42-year-old, Brian Messina, after receiving a 911 call reporting an unconscious male adult on the mostly dirt, rural road that connects the communities of Hemet and the Anza Valley, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Richard Carroll had previously said of the homicide investigation.

Deputies who responded to the area located “a deceased male adult with obvious trauma,” Carrol reported at the time; saying that investigators from the Hemet Sheriff’s Station and Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit responded and assumed the investigation.

As their investigation continued, officials developed leads and gathered information that ultimately led to the arrests of 26-year-old, Nico Manuel Zahir, from Anza; 35-year-old, Joe Anthony Serna, from Anza; and 37-year-old, George Frank Holley, a fugitive from justice from Oklahoma.

“All three are currently in custody and have been charged by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office with homicide for their involvement” in Messina’s murder, Carrol said in an updated release regarding the murder investigation.

Online jail records indicate Zahir was arrested in the area of Denny Drive and Boulder Hill Road in Anza on Dec. 11, 2020. He was later booked on suspicion of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, two counts of making criminal threats, being a felon in possession of a firearm, vehicle theft, and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. All are felonies.

Holley was also located and arrested on Dec. 11, in the area of Scouts Lane and Howard Road in Anza. He was later booked on suspicion of vehicle theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property, and two counts of being a fugitive from justice. All felonies. He was also booked for possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.

Serna was later arrested on Cary Road in Anza on January 14. He was booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats, and false imprisonment. All felonies.

Jail records also indicated Zahir and Serna remain in custody without bail, while Holley was released from Riverside County custody on Jan. 7.

SEE ORIGINAL STORY: Investigation continuing after man’s body found in Hemet

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is urged to immediately contact Central Homicide Investigator Stoyer at (951) 955-2777. Callers can refer to incident file number D203350048 and can remain anonymous.

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Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

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.