Merced County sheriff’s investigators on Tuesday arrested a suspect in an eight-month-old homicide investigation.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Sheriff Mark Pazin said DNA evidence collected inside the Ballico home where 71-year-old Ramon Jimenez was gunned down earlier this year led to the arrest of the suspected gunman, Rogaliano Gonzalez Munoz, 29.
Jimenez was shot and killed Feb.19 at his home in the 19000 block of Lombardy Avenue during a suspected home-invasion robbery.
“This was ruthless,” Pazin said Wednesday. “They marched this 71-year-old into his house and shot him in front of his wife. They’re predators.”
The sheriff said Munoz and at least two other men targeted Jimenez for drugs or money and threatened to kill Jimenez’s wife, whose name has not been released. Instead, the three men killed Jimenez, Pazin said.
“These goons with guns then took off, as usual – the cowards that they are,” Pazin said.
Citing a need to protect an ongoing investigation, Pazin declined to say whether investigators found any evidence of marijuana or other drugs in the victim’s home. According to Pazin, investigators with the sheriff’s Major Crimes unit caught their first break in the case in July when Munoz was involved in a car-to-car shootout while he was casing a marijuana garden in rural Merced County for an unrelated planned robbery.
Pazin said Munoz and others were scouting the potential robbery site in the area of Oakdale and Fisher roads when they ran into people protecting the marijuana operation and got involved in a rolling gun battle that ended when Munoz crashed his vehicle into a roadside ditch and ran away on foot, leaving an unarmed female in his car.
The sheriff called it “terribly ironic” that Munoz “was the hunter who became the hunted” during the shootout in July. “He had this band of thugs looking to do home invasion robberies and that was their lot in life,” Pazin said.
Investigators located Munoz after the July incident and collected another DNA sample at the scene. Authorities wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the DNA evidence collected at the murder scene in February and the scene of the shootout in July.
Samples were sent to the state Justice Department for analysis and were matched to Munoz last month, Deputy Delray Shelton said. Investigators learned Munoz was hiding out in Humboldt County, Nev., and alerted authorities there who arrested Munoz.
Munoz was booked at the Merced County Jail without bail on suspicion of murder. Formal criminal charges against Munoz had not been filed on Tuesday, according to the Merced County Superior Court clerk’s office. Authorities expect to arraign Munoz on a murder charge later this week.
Shelton said there is no evidence that Jimenez’s murder was gang-related. No additional information was available regarding the other two suspects in the murder of Jimenez.