Prosecutors cite 'insufficient evidence,' decline to file child endangerment, guns charges against Merced County worker

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comMarch 7, 2014 

— Prosecutors declined to file charges against a Merced County employee who was arrested a week ago in connection with the discovery by police of numerous firearms and ammunition at her home.

The Merced County District Attorney’s Office said Friday there was “insufficient evidence” to charge 35-year-old Marissa Ann Gonzales with child endangerment and possession of a stolen firearm.

Gonzales and her longtime boyfriend, Pedro Garcia, were arrested March 1 at their La Palma Lane home after the Merced Police Department gang unit reportedly found five handguns, a shotgun, a rifle, a large amount of ammunition and body armor in the couple’s garage. One of the firearms had been reported stolen, authorities said.

Police said gang members were using the home as a weapons stash house. Prosecutors also declined to file any gang-related charges in the case, according to Merced County Superior Court records.

“It’s been hell this week,” Gonzales said. “I just want people to know that I’m just in a bad situation that I have no control over.”

Prosecutors did file felony charges against Garcia.

Garcia pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition with a prior strike, receiving stolen property and possession of body armor. He was ordered to appear March 14 for a preliminary hearing, according to court records.

Deputy District Attorney Mathew Martinez said he could not elaborate on the decision to drop the case against Gonzales because of the ongoing case against her boyfriend.

Garcia told investigators that all of the guns were his and that Gonzales didn’t know anything about them, according to both officials involved in the case and Gonzales.

“He’s been telling them that from the get-go,” Gonzales said. “I understand the cops say that I should’ve known they were there. I’m not going to fault them, but I didn’t know.”

Gonzales, who describes Garcia as her “husband,” said she “isn’t mad at the system.”

“My husband made poor choices and now we’re all suffering from them, my kids especially,” Gonzales said.

Their children, a 1-year-old boy and two girls, ages 16 and 9, were turned over to Child Protective Services. Gonzales hopes to get her children back as soon as possible now that the case against her has been dismissed.

“I’m working with them (CPS) to do whatever it takes to get my kids back,” Gonzales said. “I’m sure there’s a process; I understand that their top priority is making sure kids are safe and that’s my top priority too.”

Gonzales works in the county’s Human Services Agency as a family services representative. She’s been with the county since 1999.

“Everybody’s treated my family fairly well, for the most part,” Gonzales said. “My family’s been behind me and his (Garcia’s) family has been behind me 100 percent. I’m doing whatever it takes to fix it and get through it and get my kids back. That’s all I care about right now.”

Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at rparsons@mercedsunstar.com or (209) 385-2482.

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