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Dead couple found near Santa Margarita had dated, co-worker says

The man and woman found dead in a vehicle Wednesday near Santa Margarita were good workers and enjoyable to be around, according to colleagues at the North County businesses where they had been employed.

A supervisor at the company where the woman worked said the couple had dated and had broken up.

Authorities on Thursday identified the pair as Stephanie Rodriguez, 19, of Templeton and Hugo Enrique Serrantos Castillo, 22, of Atascadero.

Sheriff’s Department detectives are investigating the deaths as a possible murder-suicide, and spokesman Rob Bryn said the “manner and cause of death are still pending.”

Rodriguez’s vehicle was found down an embankment off Highway 58 near Red Hill Road early Wednesday.

Autopsies were performed Friday afternoon and were expected to take several hours, Cmdr. Brian Hascall said. The results aren’t expected until Monday, he said. Toxicology findings are expected in about two weeks.

A supervisor in the company where Rodriguez worked said Friday that she and Castillo had been dating for about three years and that Rodriguez had broken up with him about three months ago.

Rodriguez had worked for the past year at Cornucopia Tool and Plastics in Paso Robles, where she monitored the machines, said Terry Lopez, a supervisor there. Rodriguez’s mother, Martha, works at Cornucopia as well, Lopez said.

Although Rodriguez had broken up with Castillo, he was trying to get back together with her and he’d call, send text messages, and try to arrange to see her, Lopez said.

“He drank a lot and she was tired of that,” Lopez said. “That was one of the main reasons they broke up.”

Lopez said Rodriguez had talked about their relationship at work and had been hesitant to break up beforehand, saying that she still “loved him and cared about him.” Lopez also said Rodriguez liked to dance, and she said Castillo wouldn’t let her go out.

But Lopez said she had no indication that Rodriguez’s spirits were down or that anything was wrong in recent days.

“She was fun to be around,” Lopez said. “If someone didn’t say hi, she’d throw something at them and ask why. She was so cute. She was a very pretty girl.”

Lopez said employees have been distraught since learning the news and that a friend of Rodriguez’s who ate lunch with her most days at work asked to go home Thursday. Her mother hasn’t been at work since her daughter’s death.

Similarly, co-workers of Castillo’s at the Thai Elephant restaurant in Atascadero are mourning Castillo and said he was pleasant to be around.

“He was a nice young boy,” said Ae Poonsopin, a partner in the restaurant. “He was quiet, never got moody, and came to work on time.”

Poonsopin said Castillo started about six months ago and worked as a food preparer and sometimes made deliveries. It was a part-time job and he had another job, but she didn’t know where, she said.

Waitress Jennie Muannuathong said that Castillo was “always talking about his girlfriend” and she didn’t know they had broken up. She said she had no idea anything was wrong, adding that Castillo was “normal” the last time she saw him Monday.

“He’s a good guy, a really nice guy,” Muannuathong said. “Me and him always joke.”Someone reported Rodriguez missing to the Atascadero Police Department about five hours before the bodies were found early Wednesday morning.

Rodriguez was said to be “possibly at risk,” according to the logs. It doesn’t say who filed the report, but it appears to have been taken at the police station.

Authorities said that core body temperatures and autopsy findings are expected to help authorities determine when and how the deaths occurred.

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