Two home invaders kill 70-year-old Hilmar man, wound another

vpatton@mercedsun-star.com, pguerra@modbee.comApril 2, 2012 

The son of a man killed in a home invasion robbery early Monday said he had no idea why anyone would target his dad.

According to the Merced County Sheriff's Department, deputies were called to the 10000 block of Tegner Road in Hilmar just before 1 a.m., after two men armed with handguns forced their way into the home, located less than a mile south of the Stanislaus County line.

The robbers confronted the residents, shooting a 70-year-old man several times. The man died. A second victim also was shot and was being treated at a Modesto hospital. He is expected to survive. Investigators identified the deceased victim as Roberto Solorio.

Solorio lived in the home with his daughter and her husband, according to a man who said he was Solorio's son. He didn't want his name published.

He said his sister told him the robbers went to the front and rear doors of the home, knocking on them and trying to kick them in. As she was asking who they were, the robbers at the rear door broke the lock, and both men entered the home, ordering everyone down to the floor before shooting Solorio and his son-in-law. Solorio was pronounced dead at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock.

The man said family members have no idea why the house might have been targeted. "There was nothing wrong," he said.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie said none of the residents appeared to have a criminal background, a lot of money or any obvious enemies. "There is no indication that this was gang-involved or that this was a drug house," he said.

Sheriff Mark Pazin said a motive hasn't been determined, saying "it's too early to speculate." He said the area where the robbery happened is generally low in crime. "That area of Merced County has been relatively free of this type of aggressive behavior. It is surprising," Pazin said.

Neighbors agreed, saying that outside of the occasional theft, the rural stretch of road rarely sees any crime.

MacKenzie said no items appeared to have been stolen from the location; the man whose family lived there said there were items strewn on the floor but it didn't appear the house had been ransacked. Solorio's son said his sister would have to say if anything had been taken. She was at the hospital with her husband Monday afternoon.

Investigators said the only descriptions they have are that the suspects are either light-skinned Latino or white men.

The death is the seventh homicide reported in Merced County this year.

The last homicide in Hilmar was reported in April 2010. In that case, 36-year-old Armanda Llanos-Flores was stabbed to death at a residence in the 19000 block of First Street. The suspect in the killing, 40-year-old Jesus Ortega, remains at large and is believed to be living in Mexico, MacKenzie said.

It's the second home invasion robbery in the area in recent days. Two robbers broke into the east Modesto home of an 80-year-old widow last week. They bound the woman with duct tape and held her for about an hour before taking her purse and silver PT Cruiser. No one has been arrested in that case.

Solorio's son said his father had retired from truck driving in recent years and enjoyed outside activities. "He liked to garden a little bit and make benches," the man said, emotionally struggling to speak Monday afternoon. He added that his dad was in good health. "He had a little belly, but there was nothing wrong with him."

Investigators ask anyone with information on the case to contact the Merced County Sheriff's Department Detective Division at (209) 385-7472.

Modesto Bee reporter Patty Guerra can be reached at (209) 578-2343 or pguerra@modbee.com.

Sun-Star Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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