Details emerged Thursday about a friendship between a missing Modesto man and the roommate who has been arrested in connection with the 65-year-old man's death.
The two men had gotten along well until the victim began showing signs of a volatile temper, said his former girlfriend.
Hubert Henry McKinley Jr., 65, was last seen Dec. 1. Police said a body, believed to be McKinley, was found buried in a shallow grave beneath several inches of snow about 20 miles northeast of Sonora.
Homicide detectives Tuesday arrested McKinley's roommate, Albert Moss, 55, on suspicion of murder. Moss was being held Thursday night at the Stanislaus County Jail without bail.
The police investigation suggests Moss and McKinley had been friends for a significant amount of time and had lived together for several years, said Sgt. Brian Findlen, a Modesto police spokesman.
Stanislaus County coroner officials recovered the body late Wednesday afternoon but have not identified it.
LaLa Rodriguez was shocked when she heard about the discovery of a body that's believed to be McKinley's. She said their relationship had become tumultuous in the past year, but that she still cared for him.
"He was such a good man," Rodri- guez said and burst into tears as she sat in her living room. "I loved him very much."
Attempts by The Bee to reach the families of both men Thursday were unsuccessful.
A man who was staying at the apartment that McKinley and Moss shared declined to answer questions about the men.
Retired from the Army
Rodriguez said McKinley served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He had retired and was living off his Army pension.
McKinley took jobs installing carpet and tiles to supplement the income from his pension, she said. He would sometimes take Moss with him to jobs.
McKinley met Moss several years ago when Moss used to work at an electronics store. Rodriguez said McKinley loved listening to music at home, and Moss knew the ins and outs of home entertainment systems, so a friendship blossomed.
Moss was unemployed, she said, and his unemployment benefits had run out. Moss had owned a home in Merced, but he lost the house to foreclosure, so he moved in with McKinley.
"Al had no place to go," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said she met McKinley around Christmas four years ago. She moved in with him and the couple shared an apartment with Moss.
Rodriguez moved out suddenly.
"Hubert had a problem; he would lose his temper," Rodriguez said. "He started to change about a year ago. He became controlling and possessive."
She said McKinley suffered stress related to his military experience in Vietnam. He was treated with medication and counseling sessions.
Moss would secretly warn her about McKinley, Rodri- guez said, telling her McKinley might harm her and she was in danger.
But Moss would say hurtful things about others they knew, Rodriguez said, so she didn't know what to think about his warnings.
Rodriguez said she was worried she could become the victim of an abusive relationship, so she left McKinley several times, at one point getting a restraining order against him. But she went back to him and had the order lifted.
McKinley never harmed her, Rodriguez said.
She said they had planned to marry, but Rodriguez discovered McKinley already was married.
The couple split for good Nov. 11, the day Rodriguez moved out and the last day she saw McKinley.
Police ask questions
She said she became aware of McKinley's disappearance when detectives questioned her at her home.
The detectives told her they found McKinley's blue Chrysler New Yorker parked in front of her home.
Rodriguez said she did not know how long McKinley's car was parked outside, and that she found it odd and became worried for his safety.
The investigation into Mc- Kinley's disappearance began Dec. 5, when he was reported missing. Patrol officers referred the case to detectives.
Findlen said detectives questioned Moss, who became the focus of the investigation in recent days.
Moss reportedly directed detectives to where the body was believed to be buried, in an area just south of High- way 108 and east of the small town of Sierra Village in Tuolumne County.
Rodriguez said she was surprised when she learned Moss was arrested on murder charges in connection with McKinley's death.
"I couldn't believe it was Al, because he was so sensitive and easygoing," Rodri- guez said.
"He was the kind of guy if you insulted him he would just keep it inside."
Police ask anyone with information about McKinley's disappearance or the body found to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.