Washington State Woman Last Seen at Papa’s Casino Found Dead in Remote Area

Posted on: May 18, 2022, 05:41h. 

Last updated on: May 18, 2022, 10:56h.

A Washington State autopsy has confirmed the body found in a sleeping bag hidden in a rural area of the state is Yanira Cedillos, authorities revealed this week. She was last seen on March 3. That is when she and several friends celebrated her 30th birthday at Papa’s Casino.

The scenic city of Moses Lake, Wash.
The scenic city of Moses Lake, Wash., pictured above. The community was shaken in recent weeks after a woman who had been celebrating a birthday at Moses Casino was killed in her apartment. Her body was discovered last week in a rural location in Washington State. (Image: Port of Moses Lake)

Police, friends, and relatives have searched for months for the missing mother of three. A former boyfriend and one-time roommate, Juan Gastelum, 27, of Hermiston, Ore., has been charged in her death.

He had called and messaged her multiple times while she was at Papa’s Casino, located in Moses Lake, Wash., police said. She left the casino and was apparently heading back to her home when he picked her up in his car.

Gastelum then drove Cedillos to her apartment and went inside with her, police said. While there, Gastelum allegedly killed her. He also allegedly moved the body.

Police got involved after Cedillos failed to show up to work on March 4. Her family reported her missing. But authorities were unable to locate her.

Last week, new information helped police in their investigation. On Thursday, ZETX Advancing Justice, a private business that assists with cell phone investigations, told Moses Lake Police they had data from the suspect’s cell phone.

It showed the phone was tracked to a remote area — in Walla Walla County near Wallula Junction — for several minutes on March 4, the morning she was reported missing, police revealed in a Facebook post.

Moses Lake is located about 177 miles east of Seattle. Wallula Junction is some 86 miles south of Moses Lake.

Covered With Branches, Leaves

Detectives went to the location last Thursday. They started to search the area.

Within minutes, [officers] located a deceased female in a sleeping bag covered with tree limbs and leaves,” police said. But police could not confirm it was Cedillos.

On Monday, the Spokane County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy. It was able to confirm the deceased woman was Cedillos.

“Detectives will now focus on working with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office to obtain a conviction in this horrific incident,” Moses Lake police said in the post.

“Although the outcome is not what anyone wanted, it brings us comfort that we were able to find Yanira and bring her back to her family.”

Murder, Sex Assault Alleged

Gastelum faces second-degree murder and second-degree rape counts, KPQ, a Washington State radio station, reported.

He remains in the Umatilla County Jail in Oregon on $1 million bail. He is expected to appear for an extradition hearing as early as next month. That will determine if he will be sent to Washington State to stand trial on the charges.

He is likely to ask for an identification hearing in Oregon, too, KPQ said. That hearing would be held in a court to confirm he is the person sought by Washington State authorities.