Orange County prosecutors said an argument over unpaid rent led to the death of U.S. Army veteran and Cal State Fullerton student Maribel Ramos.
Kwang Chol Joy, 54, of Orange has been charged with murdering Ramos, his roommate, after she asked him to move out because he wasn't paying his rent.
After his roommate went missing earlier this month, Joy told reporters that Maribel Ramos was the only family he ever had.
Now Joy is accused of murdering Ramos, and disposing of her body.
The cause of death is still under investigation.
The last time Ramos was seen alive was when she was recorded on surveillance video, dropping off her rent check. They had been roommates for slightly more than one year.
Ramos served two tours in Iraq as an Army sergeant and was a frequent spokeswoman for veterans' issues.
She was due to graduate this month with a degree in criminal justice from Cal State Fullerton.
Joy is being held on $1 million bail.
He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.