What to Know
- May "Maya" Millete, a Chula Vista mother of three, was last seen alive nine months ago.
- In July, police named her husband, Larry, as a "person of interest" in the case.
- On Oct. 19, Chula Vista Police announced that officers had taken Larry into custody in connection with her death.
Larry Millete, the husband of May "Maya" Millete, a Chula Vista mother of three who was last seen alive at the start of the year, was taken into custody Tuesday for her killing, authorities said on Tuesday.
"Today, the Chula Vista Police Department is announcing the arrest of Larry Millete for the murder of his wife, May," Chula Vista Police said Tuesday in a news release, the first inkling that there had been a major development in the case.
Later in the afternoon, Chula Vista police chief Roxana Kennedy, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and members of Chula Vista Police Department — many of whom were wearing purple ribbons to raise awareness for domestic violence awareness month — provided more details on the development, including the fact that Larry was taken into custody at 11:41 earlier that day. He was alone at the time of the arrest, Kennedy told the crowd, which responded to the statements with loud cheers.
“The primary goal was to bring May back to her family or bring justice to the person or persons responsible for her disappearance,” Kennedy said.
Law enforcement officials tend to favor the victim's given name, May, while NBC 7 and other news outlets have adopted the usage of the name Maya that she was called by friends and family.
Kennedy said 67 search warrants had been served, 87 interviews conducted and 130 tips reviewed, with thousands of hours poured into the investigation.
“These efforts ultimately generated a variety of pieces of evidence that have become clear and overwhelming," Kennedy said. "Larry Millete, May’s husband, is responsible for May’s murder and disappearance.”
Kennedy said that Tuesday was a step toward justice but that Larry's arrest was not the end of the investigation.
PHOTOS: Law Enforcement, Supporters at Millete House Following Husband's Arrest in Missing Wife's Case
"I pray every day that we find May and give closure to your family,” Kennedy said.
Millete faces two charges, said Stephan, who told those assembled outside CVPD headquarters that her office had filed the criminal complaint on Monday. Count 1, she said, alleged that Larry had killed Maya in violation of Penal Code 187 — murder. The second count had to do with the illegal possession of an assault rifle.
“Sometimes missing person's cases remain unsolved, but as the evidence unfolded in this case, meticulously and carefully, block-by-block, it pointed in one direction: May was murdered," Stephan said. "The only thing we can do in the face of this senseless violence is to bring justice.”
It's very unusual though not unheard of for prosecutors to move forward with a charge of murder in the absence of a body. Stephan, too, addressed the fact that Maya Millete had still not been located.
"As we make this announcement, [we] understand that there are some questions about the fact that May’s body is still missing,” Stephan said, before explaining that the DA can file murder charges without having a body: “There is case law that we will be using that makes it even more clear that a missing body is circumstantial evidence that there was foul play, and that it was murder, because someone who takes their own life cannot hide their body.”
The "hearts of the community are broken," said Stephan, who provided a brief synopsis of the evidence against Larry, stating that an unsealed portion of the arrest warrant includes evidence that would not compromise the prosecution's case and does contain elements that would taint prospective jurors.
Stephan said Maya wanted a divorce for "many reasons," describing their relationship as toxic, but said that Larry would not have it.
“In homicide cases, there is often a triggering event," Stephan said. "In this case, on Jan. 7, 2021, May was no longer talking about divorce. She took that step, and the last call recorded that May made was to a divorce attorney. She did not make any further calls.”
Stephan said that, now that Larry was in custody, she hoped that people with information about the case may be less fearful of coming forward.
“We’ve experienced that repeatedly," Stephan said. "Now is the time, we hope, that you come forward if you have any information.”
In a new wrinkle in the case, Stephan said that a Lexus was believed to transport Maya's body and asked the community members to try to jog their memory about possible sightings of a Lexus pulled over or parked anywhere in the county or region on Jan. 8 of this year.
Also revealed for the first time on Tuesday by Stephan was the fact that Larry had been visiting "spellcasters" — persons purporting to wield magical powers of persuasion — before May disappeared in an effort to make her want to stay in the relationship.
“I’ve never had a case where that was involved ... but as December of 2020 came, those messages to spellcasters were a lot more threatening," Stephan said. "He was asking for May to become incapacitated, for May to be in an accident, to have broken bones so that she could stay at home, thus displaying his homicidal ideations to harm May.”
Maya scheduled an appointment with a divorce lawyer for Jan. 12, Stephan said, adding that Maya was unable to set it up for Jan. 7 because a party was planned for her daughter's birthday.
"Afternoon of Jan. 7, Larry Millete sent a really telling text," Stephan said. "He said, 'I think she wants me to snap,' and 'I’m shaking inside, ready to snap.' "
The last activity recorded coming from Maya's phone was on Jan. 8 at 1:25 a.m., according to the prosecutor, who also said that the following day, Larry’s spellcaster messages turned their focus away from Maya and toward a man whom Larry blamed for his failed relationship.
Millete is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the South Bay courthouse. Suspects being held on murder charges are typically held without bail.
A Heartbroken Family
Since Maya's disappearance, there have been a series of searches in and around San Diego County, often led by Maya's sister Maricris Drouaillet, who, along with her husband, Richard, have been ceaseless in their efforts to locate Maya and to keep the case prominent in people's minds
On Tuesday, understandably, Maricris described the latest events as "overwhelming."
“I’m still trying to take it [in]," Maricris said. "It’s been really hard. He’s our family.”
The emotions of the day and the past nine months were at times too much to bear for the conflicted Maricris on Tuesday, whose sorrow was simply heartbreaking to watch.
“It’s hard to go against family," Maricris said. "He’s been with us for 20 years. My sister loved him. She gave him three kids. This is still not the end. We have a long way to go. We’re still asking the public: Please help us bring my sister home. I just want to see my sister.”
Maricris, who told the assembly that she had made a promise to Maya’s kids that they would bring their mother home, also thanked the community for its assistance with the search parties as well as prayer meetings that been held outside of the media spotlight.
The Arrest of Larry Millete
Investigators have turned out en masse at the family home in the Eastlake neighborhood of Chula Vista. Both CVPD officers and FBI officials are taking part in what appears to be a search being conducted at the home.
Also in the neighborhood on Tuesday were supporters of the missing woman, who have faithfully turned up over and over to help search for Maya or help bolster the family in its efforts to keep her disappearance front-of-mind for the police and her community.
Chula Vista resident Miriam Bojorquez, who has volunteered as part of a search team, said her reaction to the news of Larry's arrest was complicated on an emotional level
"Sadness and happiness at the same time," Bojorquez said. "Sadness because now … as a mother, what’s going to happen with those kids? Happiness, maybe, it’s the first beginning of a family closure."
A neighbor told NBC 7 that she was taken by surprise by the arrival of law enforcement, saying at first it sounded like fireworks.
“I just heard some bangs," the woman said. "At first I thought it was the neighbors working on their yard, and then I saw the urgent alert on Nextdoor come out — to avoid the area, that the FBI and SWAT team were there and setting off flash-bangs — so I came out to look.”
The woman said she had gotten used to the “media circus” and would be glad when it was all over.
“I hope they find her body and give the family some closure,” the woman said.
The Disappearance of May 'Maya' Millete
The disappearance of May "Maya" Millete has gripped San Diego County since she was last seen nine months ago.
Maya, 39, was last seen by her family at her home on Paseo Los Gatos at around 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, two days before the family was set to travel on a planned trip to Big Bear for her daughter’s birthday. Maya has three children, ages 4, 9, and 11. Investigators said Maya has not answered phone calls or text messages since Jan. 7.
Family and friends said that after her disappearance, Maya’s car was still at her home but phone calls went straight to her voicemail.
The Drouaillets were indefatigable in their efforts to locate Maya throughout 2021.
“We feel so helpless and also so desperate for answers,” Drouaillet told NBC 7 in February.
Maya and Larry's Relationship
Also in February, Maricris said detectives told her that Larry Millete had retained a lawyer and was no longer cooperating with the investigation.
Later that same month, the Drouaillet's offered a window into the Millete marriage.
“We were actually out camping, right there at the Glamis Dunes – Glamis Dunes Imperial Valley – last new year. So, Jan. 3 was the last time that we did – we saw her,” Maricris said.
Maricris said it was tough to see her sister and Larry on that trip, knowing “they had been having marital problems for the last year.”
“They tried to work it out,” she told NBC 7. “They did have, you know, marriage counseling, and we did try to kind of help them out to work out their relationship. But it’s been on and off, on and off.”
NBC 7 learned in May that Larry had been served a temporary gun-violence restraining order days before police served a second search warrant on the couple's home. He was served with the order on May 5, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department public records.
In July, CVPD named Larry as a person of interest in the case.
Larry Millete has always maintained that he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance.
In the news release accompanying the announcement of Larry's arrest, Chula Vista Police said that the "investigation continues to be ongoing and anyone who may have any information regarding May’s disappearance is asked to please contact San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477, or CVPD at 619-691-5151. No matter how small the detail, we ask the public to share that information with investigators or Crime Stoppers."
Check back here for updates on this breaking news story.