A woman’s nightmare comes true

Jeanne Molina

Jeanne Molina

A woman’s nightmare comes true when she’s raped and murdered by a co-worker.

Jeanne Molina had a frightening, violent dream that she believed was a premonition. She told her husband, Frank Reed, about it:

“She’d had a dream that I was going to badly beat her up, and she felt that she should get out of my house. And I never understood why she would have a dream like that and believe that dream.”

Jeanne Molina was raised in Merced, California. Following a tour of duty with the Navy, she returned home, married Frank Reed, and had three children. According to Frank:

“We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of respect for each other. She just had all of the things that I’ve always wanted. She made me want to be married for a long time.”

But when her youngest child was two years old, Jeanne needed a change in her life. She also wanted to escape the savage beating predicted in her dream. Jeanne left Merced and moved some 300 miles south to the city of Tustin, California. Her experience as a cook in the Navy helped her land a job with a restaurant chain. Ernestine Hitchcock is Jeanne’s mother:

“Within six weeks she had been promoted. She was going to be training all of the new hires at each restaurant as they opened up. She had planned to take Joanna with her, so it was gonna be kind of a neat experience for her. She was real excited about it. She was real happy.”

Jeanne had been at her job for about two months when she arranged for her oldest daughter, Joanna, to come down from Merced to live with her. Jeanne’s parents agreed to drive 10 year-old Joanna to Tustin on July 17. But when they arrived at Jeanne’s home as planned, no one was there.

Police found the rock used to beat Jeanne

Police found the rock used to beat Jeanne

Jeanne’s parents went to the restaurant where she worked. They were told Jeanne did not report for work that day. The next morning, they went back to Jeanne’s room hoping to find her. There was no note, no clue as to where she might be.

Finally, they went to the local police and reported her missing. Little did they know that on the same day that they had driven to Tustin, a gruesome discovery was made in Westminster, a town 10 miles away. The crushed and beaten body of an unidentified woman was found near an abandoned construction site. Michael Proctor spoke for the Westminster Police Department:

“It was one of the more vicious crime scenes that we’ve investigated, and we’ve investigated an awful lot of homicides.”

According Michael Proctor, just after daybreak that Sunday, a husband and wife witnessed a man acting suspiciously near his car:

“He picked up some type of a large object, and we later found that to be a piece of asphalt, and with both hands above his head, he just thrust it down hard, and then looked up and saw her, and in her words, he panicked and jumped back in his compact vehicle and sped off from the scene at a high rate of speed.”

Terry Selinske also works for the Westminster Police Department:

“We didn’t feel that robbery was a motive. She had some money on her. She had a ring on her finger. We felt that probably under the circumstances, the suspects that did this knew her in some way. They were trying to prevent us from finding out who she was. She was so badly damaged that we couldn’t tell if she was a female Asian, white, Hispanic.”

Berdeja was seen cleaning his car

Berdeja was seen cleaning his car

An autopsy revealed that the woman had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and bludgeoned, then run over by a car. Jeanne Molina’s landlord read a newspaper article about the victim and thought it might be Jeanne. He called police, who contacted Jeanne’s husband, Frank Reed:

“Possibly the most difficult thing I ever had to do was to go down and identify somebody who was beaten so badly.   She was unrecognizable.”

It wasn’t until Frank was shown the victim’s ring that he was certain it was Jeanne.    Despite Jeanne’s dream about her husband beating her, investigators were able to quickly eliminate Frank as a suspect:

“I’ve kind of come to believe that the dream wasn’t about me. It was a dream about something else, and she had foreseen what was going to happen to her.”

Detectives went to the restaurant and questioned Jeanne’s coworkers. Terry Selinske:

“One of the things we found out was that she had worked on July 16, just about till 11:00 at night. One witness stated that she did come back after signing out on the timecard and talked to a particular individual for a few minutes.”

That individual was short order cook Carlos Garcia Berdeja. Jeanne might have gone out with Berdeja to celebrate her daughter’s pending arrival. What she probably didn’t know was that Berdeja had a history of violence and a hair-trigger temper. According to Michael Proctor, Berdeja had once threatened a fellow cook and then bragged about killing a man in Mexico.

Carlos Berdeja quit his job the day Jeanne disappeared. At Berdeja’s apartment, police learned that he and his common-law wife had left suddenly on the day of the murder.

That afternoon, another neighbor saw Berdeja cleaning out his car. When Berdeja’s car was later found abandoned, it provided police with even more proof that he was the killer. Terry Selinske:

“Evidence not only in the vehicle, but on the undercarriage of the vehicle, secured in my mind, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was the vehicle that had been used to run over Jeanne Molina.”

Authorities have been searching for Carlos Berdeja ever since.