Miguel Villegas earned a reputation as a caring father over the last couple years, staying at home to raise two young kids and his autistic stepson Damiean Gully. When the 14-year-old also known as Luke disappeared last week, family friends say Villegas took front and center on the search. Days after park rangers found the boy's body in the Sequoia National Park, he was still front and center, but now as these police arrested him for murder.
Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas said, "As the investigation continued it became apparent that Miguel Angel Villegas Pacheco was responsible for his death."
Visalia police say they'd responded to at least two prior calls for help at the home during disputes between Villegas and Luke. A search of court documents shows they'd also arrested Villegas in 2008 when they caught him driving a car stolen from his previous boss at a job in Nevada. Villegas disappeared from that job after he was confronted about the car and turned up in Visalia, where he soon had a job with the city, driving the Sequoia Shuttle bus to the national park. ABC30 tracked down one of his former co-workers who told me Villegas was a friendly guy and easy to get along with.
"To hear what he did is shocking," said Moses. "I didn't think he had it in him."
The shuttle buses Villegas drives make several stops, including at the Ash Moutain visitors center. Gully's body was found not far off the route.
Villegas served a short jail term for the stolen car. He's back in the jail now facing murder charges. Prosecutors have until Monday to file the case.