Daughter pleads not guilty to murder of mother found in closet of Hanford home

Kassandra Gutierrez Image
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Suspect in woman's death in Hanford pleads not guilty
A South Valley woman charged with the murder of a woman whose body was found locked in the closet of a Hanford home has pleaded not guilty.

HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- A South Valley woman charged with the murder of her mother, whose body was found locked in the closet of a Hanford home, has pleaded not guilty.

37-year-old Kelli Yingling made an appearance in court Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors say Yingling murdered her mother, 67-year-old Peggi Yingling, whose body was found locked in a closet last week.

The brutal crime has shocked the quiet Hanford neighborhood where the two live.

"So, the victim was 67 years old, and she is the mother of our defendant. The defendant has been previously convicted of elder abuse and was on felony probation for elder abuse at the time that this offense occurred," said Kings County District Attorney Sarah Hacker.

Yingling and her both lived at a home on Encore Drive in a quiet Hanford neighborhood.

But someone grew so concerned that they called Hanford police on Friday to ask that they come to check on the family.

Inside, officers made a gruesome discovery.

Peggi's body was tied up, stuffed in plastic bags, locked up and decomposing in a closet.

An autopsy showed signs of strangulation.

They didn't have to look hard to find Yingling as she was already in the Kings County Jail on unrelated warrants.

Arrested after leading officers on a pursuit back on May 2nd.

When detectives sat her down for questioning, they say what she said connected her to the murder.

But her attorney is already looking to poke holes in the case.

"Very often when we get police reports, we start to see that things are not clear cut as they made it to be; there are a lot of nuances, and people's memories aren't what they claim or were initially, so we need to investigate all that," said Carlos Navarrete, who is representing Yingling.

RELATED: Woman's body found wrapped in plastic bags in closet of Hanford home, police say

Yingling has two felonies on her record, including for elder abuse.

Navarrete says his client is innocent until proven guilty.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney's Office is prosecuting Yingling on three counts, including murder and elder abuse.

"We wouldn't file a case unless we believed that we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. And in this case we do have that conviction. And with respect to the locals, we are committed to protecting our elderly population," explained Hacker.

The DA has also added enhancements for premeditated murder and for having a prior strike.

That means Yingling faces 25 to life if found guilty of homicide.

"I am confident that she is presumed innocent and I am confident that the judicial process that we have in place is the best way of doing justice to ensure innocent people don't end up in prison," says Navarrete.

The suspect is set to be in court on July 9th for a pre-trial.

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