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Couple killed Vietnam veteran, burned body in front of kids, police say

HANFORD, Calif. — A couple arrested in central California in the torture and killing of a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran made their children watch as they burned the man’s body, authorities said.

Stacie Mendoza and Jose Mendoza tortured Kenneth Coyle on April 5 to get him to reveal his bank account details and passwords. After torturing him, the Mendozas allegedly beat and suffocated him to death in his house in the small city of Hanford, said Police Capt. Karl Anderson.

A few days later the couple and their three children drove the body to nearby Madera County, where they burned it while their children watched, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

“We know the children were taken to where the body was burned and watched the body burn,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Coyle, a retired contractor for Naval Air Station Lemoore, first met Stacie Mendoza at a Hanford restaurant where she worked as a waitress. As their relationship developed, she started getting access to his bank account and getting money from him, authorities said.

The couple then went to his house and tortured him to get more money out of him.

“They restrained him on a bed and beat him to get access to his bank account information, passwords and other account information,” Anderson said.

Coyle died of “blunt force trauma and suffocation,” he said.

After getting rid of Coyle’s body, the Mendozas returned to his house last week to steal more things and were spotted by property managers, who called police. Officers tracked Coyle’s cellphone to the couple’s home in Fresno.

Police later arrested them at a restaurant near Los Angeles International Airport. Jose Mendoza had Coyle’s credit card and a plane ticket to his native El Salvador when he was arrested, officials said.

The Mendozas are being held without bail. Their children are in the custody of Child Protective Services.

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