Home invasion in Winton turns into homicide case

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comJune 17, 2013 

— A Winton shooting that injured three people earlier this month has turned into a homicide investigation.

Mateo Gonzales, 40, recently died at the hospital from wounds he suffered during a June 5 shooting in the 7100 block of Grape Avenue. Two other men who were injured during the shooting remain in the hospital, according to Sheriff Mark Pazin.

Pazin said detectives believe those involved in the shooting targeted the victims because they were growing marijuana.

The sheriff said it's the latest in a string of home invasions in which people were targeted for marijuana.

"This person basically lost his life growing this junk," Pazin said. "This has gone from an aberration to a trend when it comes to home invasion robberies."

Thus far, Pazin said, it appears the victims were growing the marijuana for monetary purposes.

The suspects are described as two Latino men in their mid-30s to early 40s. They were driving a newer-model white four-door sedan, according to deputies.

Pazin said a similar homicide in which someone was targeted over marijuana was reported in February near Ballico. In that case, a 71-year-old man was gunned down.

In April last year, a 70-year-old man was killed at a residence in Hilmar. Detectives said a relative of the victim who spent time at home might have been a medical marijuana user.

Detectives speculated the attackers might have associated the relative with the victim's home, and targeted it for that reason. No suspects were arrested in either of those cases.

Anyone with information about the June 5 shooting can call detectives at (209) 385-7444. Tips are kept confidential and callers can remain anonymous.

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

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