Merced County DA’s son arrested as suspect in triple homicide

07/26/2014 9:05 PM

07/26/2014 9:23 PM

The Merced County district attorney’s son has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in a triple homicide last year.

Ethan B. Morse, 18, son of Larry D. Morse II, was arrested Friday afternoon outside his Merced home on a warrant for murder in connection with the shooting deaths of three teenagers last year at an Easter party. The victims, Samantha Parreira, 16; Bernabed Hernandez-Canela, 18; and Matthew Fisher, 19; were killed March 30, 2013, at the house party in the 9200 block of Westside Boulevard near Atwater.

Detectives with the Sheriff’s Department said the killings were gang-related.

Morse remained behind bars Saturday without bail at the Mariposa County Jail.

As of Saturday, there were no documents accusing Ethan B. Morse of any street-gang involvement or of personally using a firearm. His alleged role in the 2013 triple homicide remains under investigation. He was 17 at the time of the shootings.

Larry D. Morse could not be reached for comment.

Ethan B. Morse is the fourth person arrested in connection with the deadly holiday party. The other suspects, Jose L. Botello and Jose M. Carballido, both 19-year-old Atwater residents, and Jacob Tellez, 18, of Merced, have been booked on suspicion of first-degree murder as gang participants. Botello and Carballido have also been accused of using firearms, according to Merced Superior Court records.

Botello, Carballido and Tellez were arrested last week and booked at the Merced County Jail. All three remain in custody.

The California Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the case against Ethan B. Morse and Tellez. The Merced County District Attorney’s office is handling the cases against Botello and Carballido. It is unclear if Morse plans to turn over those cases to the state attorney in light of his son’s arrest.

Sheriff’s deputies said Saturday in a brief statement that Ethan B. Morse was recently linked to the triple-homicide case through the investigation into Tellez, though detectives declined to elaborate.

“Witness cooperation continues to be a vital part of this investigation,” Sgt. Chuck Hale, head of the department’s Major Crimes Unit, said in the statement.

Investigators believe the party started as an Easter celebration for high school students and escalated after word of the gathering spread through text messages and social media, attracting more than 100 people, including members of several rival Merced County street gangs. Detectives have withheld details, including the number of suspected shooters and whether any weapons have been recovered.

Deputies have not ruled out the possibility of additional arrests.

Desiree Parreira, whose daughter Samantha was one of the three victims, said she was aware of the latest arrest. “But, I really have no comment right now. I’m not able to speak about that at this time,” Parreira said Saturday.

Diane Reis, whose son Mathew Fisher was also a victim, also declined to comment. In a previous statement regarding last week’s three arrests, Reis said she felt “relieved.”

“Our son was taken from us because of a senseless act of violence. They took an innocent life,” Reis told the Merced Sun-Star. “He was loved by so many people and so many lives were affected by this.”

Both mothers have pleaded throughout the case for anyone with information to contact the Sheriff’s Department.

Hernandez-Canela’s family could not be reached for comment.

Larry D. Morse was elected in 2006 and assumed control of the District Attorney’s office early after Gordon Spencer resigned amid scandal.

Morse’s oldest son, Dylan Morse, received a three-year prison sentence in 2009 in Sonoma County for driving drunk and causing a two-car crash near Cotati that killed Alexander Ruiz, 22, and injured two others. Dylan Morse has since been released from state prison.

Ethan B. Morse graduated in June from Golden Valley High School in Merced, where he was a standout varsity wrestler.

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