A curious black Labrador set in motion events leading to the arrests of three people accused of burying a body in a shallow grave in southwest Bakersfield.
Let out the morning of Jan. 23, the dog made a gruesome discovery, unearthing a human toe in a corner of the backyard, according to court documents.
The homeowner contacted police, and upon going to the backyard officers found a small hole dug up by the dog in which a foot was exposed, the documents say.
"Further, the body was found to be covered in black plastic, the extremities were zip tied, and the body was found to have been burned prior to burial in the shallow grave," investigators wrote in the documents.
The investigation led to the homeowner's brother, Dennis Marroquin, who told investigators he buried the body of 21-year-old Joseph Lara with the assistance of two others after finding Lara had overdosed.
Marroquin, 25, and Kailee Morrison have pleaded not guilty to accessory and conspiracy charges while David Williams, 30, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, among other charges.
According to the documents, Marroquin said he and the others were at a residence where Lara overdosed. Coroner's officials confirmed Lara died of intoxication from a mixture of cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Afraid to call authorities because both he and Williams had recently been arrested on drug charges, Marroquin said they came up with a plan to dispose of the body, the documents say.
Marroquin left the residence and purchased zip ties and canisters of fuel. When he returned, they stripped Lara, wiped him down with bleach and covered him in black plastic trash bags, according to the documents
They loaded the corpse into the trunk of a vehicle and drove it to Marroquin's brother's house at 6209 Hathaway Ave. Once there, Marroquin told detectives, they dug a hole and placed the body inside.
Then they set it on fire, Marroquin told investigators.
After the fire burned out, they covered the body with dirt and left, according to the documents. The body was discovered about a week later.
Neighbors told police the house where the body was found often had loud parties, and a strong smell of marijuana sometimes came from the residence, but no one reported seeing anything unusual in the days leading up to the dog's discovery.