Two teenage boys were detained Wednesday in the brutal killing of a friend whose burned body was found in the Arizona desert.
The boys, both 16, made statements that led detectives to believe they took part in the killing of Amber LeAnn Hess, and a search of their homes produced evidence linking them to the crime, Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez said.
The suspects and Hess were acquaintances, Vasquez said. Hess' mother described one of the boys as a one-time close friend of her daughter who had spent hours at her home.
"Basically they just didn't like her and for whatever reason were planning to kill her," Vasquez said. "They went to her home and - through a combination of beating, stabbing and choking - killed her."
The teens, who were identified as Nicolas Castillo and Todd Hoke, will be booked on first-degree murder charges, and other charges are likely, Vasquez said. They likely will be charged as adults.
They were scheduled to appear later Wednesday in juvenile court.
Amber's parents found blood and signs of a struggle in their home in Queen Creek on Sunday when they returned from a weekend trip.
A body found in the desert on Monday was positively identified as Amber's using dental records, Vasquez said. Her car found Tuesday just down the street from the home of one of the suspects, he said.
Candy Hess said Hoke was one of her daughter's best friends, who spent hours in their home playing video games and would call constantly.
"He was like a brother to her, which makes this even more confusing to us," Candy Hess said.
She said her daughter had a falling-out with the boy, who was not her daughter's boyfriend, she said.
Both boys were students at Coolidge High School, where Amber Hess recently graduated, and lived within blocks of her home.
Deputy Chief Clint Lee said the evidence tying the pair to the crime included fingerprints and weapons.
The assault is believed to have happened late Friday or early Saturday. Detectives are not sure if Amber let her attackers into her home or if they forced their way inside.
"From what I'm told this girl fought for her life in that home, and she didn't die easy - it was very brutal," Vasquez said. "If they had been adults I would be screaming for the death penalty in this case."
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