Two victims identified in Rancho Santa Fe deaths
Two of three people whose bodies were found this week inside a Rancho Santa Fe home have been identified as the homeowner’s teenage daughter and his longtime friend, a real estate broker from Los Angeles, sources said Wednesday.
Although county officials have not yet released the names of the two women and one teenage girl who died inside the home, friends and relatives have confirmed through phone calls and social media that the youngest was Hannah Arya,15, whose father Michael Arya bought the house 18 months ago.
He died in April after a battle with lung cancer.
On June 19, Hannah posted a photo on her Instagram account showing herself as a child sitting on her father’s lap. The message posted with the photo read, “Happy Father’s Day! I miss you more and more every day.”
After the bodies were found on Monday, people who follow the teen’s social media account posted messages expressing their sadness and shock over her death. They described her as a kind, loving and beautiful girl. “Rest in peace, beautiful soul,” one commenter said.
Hannah was a student at Verde Valley School, a boarding and day school in Sedona, Ariz. Her mother lives in Oregon.
“She was so smart and she was just full of life,” Leyla Kaya, a friend and former employee of Michael Arya, said during a phone interview Wednesday.
Kaya said she had struck up a friendship with Mia Shin, 56, the real estate broker who was close friends with Michael Arya, and had tried to look out for Hannah as much as she could after the father’s death. She said Shin was one of the two adults found inside the house.
Kaya said she, Shin and Hannah spent time together in downtown San Diego on Saturday while they waited to pick up one of Hannah’s friends from the airport. Hannah had flown into town that day as well.
“The energy in her eyes, I was just so amazed by her,” said Kaya, who said she had known and spent time with Hannah when she was a much younger child. She described the teen as “savvy” and “intelligent,” a young woman with a mind for politics.
“Michael was a walking encyclopedia,” Kaya said. “And his daughter was his little prodigy.”
Shin’s sister also confirmed Wednesday that Shin was one of the two adults found in the home on Via de la Valle. The sister, who asked not to be identified by name, said the family grew up in La Jolla— Shin went to La Jolla High School — and was visiting with Hannah at the time of their deaths.
The sister said Shin was acting as a “chaperone” to Hannah, who had returned to her father’s home in San Diego during her time off from school.
The sister said Shin had known Michael Arya for many years (they were once neighbors) and had tried to keep in touch. She said when she spoke to Shin briefly on Sunday, Shin was making dinner for Hannah and a teenage friend. She described her sister as a tough but well-respected businesswoman, who thrived in the “dog-eat-dog” world of real estate.
The sister and Kaya said they believe Shin was an innocent victim in the slayings.
As of Wednesday, only one autopsy had been completed and authorities were waiting for the Medical Examiner’s Office to finish the others before releasing information , sheriff’s homicide Lt. Kenn Nelson said. He said Michael Arya’s girlfriend, Marina Ryzhkova, 29, from Russia, was not involved in the slayings and had left the country. The investigation began with a phone call to the Sheriff ’s Department shortly before noon on Monday from a friend of one of the victims reporting possible child abuse, Nelson said.
– Dana Littlefield is a writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.