Two Riverside half brothers accused of murdering their mother reprised a scene from television's "The Sopranos" when they severed the head and hands from her strangled body, then dumped it in a mountain ravine, police said Monday.
The brothers allegedly severed the parts to keep authorities from identifying it as their mother, an idea one of them told investigators they got from the award-winning HBO series about New Jersey mobsters, police said.
And, taking another page from the underworld, the brothers first tried to toss the headless body in a garbage bin at an Oceanside construction site but were apparently scared off by a security guard, police said.
Police arrested Jason Victor Bautista, 20, and his half brother, Matthew Montejo, 15, over the weekend after the older brother allegedly admitted to police that they had killed their mother, Jane Marie Bautista, 41, whose dismembered body was found Jan. 15 in the Santa Ana Mountains.
Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona said the older brother told investigators that their decision to cut the head and hands from the body to obscure its identity came from a November "Sopranos" episode in which the main character, Tony Soprano, kills an associate. Soprano and another character then dismember the body and get rid of the parts.
"Based upon his viewing of that show, they decided, after they killed their mother, how they would dispose of the body, which was dismemberment," Carona said.
While Carona said investigators know how the killing occurred, they don't know why.
"I don't know what motive you could possibly give for killing your mother, cutting off her head and cutting off her hands," Carona said.
According to neighbors, the family was fractious.
"She was always yelling and screaming at them: 'Get in the house! Do your chores!' " said Dan Cormier, a former neighbor in Menifee, near Temecula, where the family lived before moving to Riverside six months ago.
Police said the mother was apparently killed in the family's apartment Jan. 14, though they could not say where the body was dismembered.
Guard Gets Car License
Investigators became interested in Jason Bautista based on a license plate number scribbled by a security guard at an Oceanside construction site. The guard had spotted two males trying to place something in a dumping bin about 2 a.m. Jan. 15.
He told police the two males saw him approaching, hurriedly returned the bundle -- with a foot protruding from the end -- to their car and drove off.
After seeing news reports later that day about the discovery of a headless body off Ortega Highway, he notified Oceanside police, who passed the tip along. It was not clear why the guard did not call police when he first spotted the suspicious bundle.
Two days later, police said, they traced the plate to Jason Bautista's car, then spent several days trying to find him, a task complicated by the family's recent move.
Son Found at University
They found Bautista on Friday while he attended classes at Cal State San Bernardino. Police said he told them he had not seen his mother for a few weeks and agreed to let them search his car and the apartment.
Then, before investigators could conduct the search, Bautista said he and his brother had killed their mother, police said.
Police said they arrested Bautista after he showed them the separate locations in the apartment where the head and hands were stashed. The younger brother, a sophomore at Riverside's Martin Luther King High School, was arrested when he arrived home a few hours later.
Each has been charged with murder. Bautista is to be arraigned today. The Orange County district attorney's office was deciding whether to charge the younger brother as an adult.
If the allegation about the crime's cover-up proves true, the dismemberment adds a gruesome twist to "copycat" deaths ranging from at least eight killings reportedly inspired by the 1995 release of the movie "Natural Born Killers" to recent deaths and injuries of people involved in stunts based on the "Jackass" TV show and movie.
It also revisits a political issue that grew out of the Columbine High School massacre nearly four years ago, which launched a federal probe into the relationship between Hollywood violence and the real thing.
"The lessons kids learn is obvious," said former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, an outspoken critic of violence in the media, who noted studies that found harmful effects of media violence on children. "All showed the same thing: We do harm to children with the glorification of violence.... There has to be some restraint by the industry."
Officials at HBO declined to comment Monday.
Jane Bautista was born in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., a working-class town of 5,000 off Lake Michigan, near the Wisconsin border. Her father, Don Osborne, a retired die caster for a boat manufacturer, said he had not seen his daughter or grandsons in years, the result of a falling out between the parents and the daughter.