CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- A Southern California man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of killing his wife nine months ago, and her family pleaded for help in finding her body.
Larry Millete, 40, was arrested at his home in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, a day after San Diego County prosecutors charged him with murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon, officials said at a news conference.
He could face a potential sentence of life in prison if convicted of killing Maya Millete.
“This is a surprise to me since they have no proof Maya is dead, and I believe she is still alive,” Bonita Martinez, Millete’s attorney, told KFMB-TV.
District Attorney Summer Stephan said prosecutors can file a murder charge without having a body.
“The law is so crystal clear that we cannot let someone murder someone and gain a benefit by hiding the body in a way that we cannot discover it,” she said.
Maya Millete, 40, vanished in early January, authorities said. She left her mobile phone and other valuables along with the couple's three children, authorities said.
Larry Millete told police that his wife voluntarily left the family. But investigators said he had been considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance.
Stephan said Maya Millete was in a “toxic relationship” and that her last known call before she vanished on Jan. 7 was to a divorce attorney.
Before Maya Millette disappeared, her husband opposed divorcing and hired “spellcasters" to keep her from leaving, Stephan said.
“He was asking for May to become incapacitated … so that she could stay at home, thus displaying his homicidal idealizations to harm May,” Stephan said.
Also missing were a gun owned by Millete and a black Lexus SUV that prosecutors believe he used to dispose of his wife's body, authorities said.
Authorities and family members asked for public help in trying to track down Maya Millete's remains, urging anyone to come forward who may have seen the missing car around the time she vanished.
“We're still asking the public: Please, help us bring my sister home," a sobbing Maricris Drouaillet said. “We did a promise to her 11-year-old daughter that we will bring her mom home.”
In addition to police and the District Attorney's office, the investigation also involved the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, police said.