A Merced man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the stabbing death on Thursday of a 21-year-old mother of two, Merced police announced Friday.
Oscar Saenz, 34, was arrested within hours of the death on Thursday of Brittany Lynn Dutra, but detectives said they withheld that information from the public because they were still searching for another person who fled the crime scene.
Dutra died from multiple stab wounds around 3 a.m. Thursday inside an apartment in the 2300 block of K Street, police have said.
“A motive for the homicide has not been determined at this time,” Sgt. Scott Skinner said in a statement. “Detectives interviewed the witness who stated there were only four individuals inside the apartment at the time of the assault.”
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We didn’t release this information or the suspect photograph yesterday because we are still trying to locate any other possible witnesses and the fourth individual in the apartment when the assault took place,” Skinner said. “We didn’t want to jeopardize the case by releasing the information too early.”
Skinner confirmed investigators have not been able to locate the witness in question.
Police quickly identified Saenz as a suspect and, with the help of investigators from the Merced County Gang Task Force, detectives located Saenz around noon Thursday near Lopes Avenue in Merced. Skinner said Saenz acknowledged being at the apartment the evening Dutra was killed, but declined to answer other questions.
Police have said the incident was not gang related.
Family members have described Dutra and a loving mother of two twin toddlers. She graduated in 2011 from Yosemite High School. Her children are being cared for by family, relatives have said.
Jail records show Saenz has been in and out of jail in Merced County more than half a dozen times since 2012, including multiple stints under the terms of the state’s Public Safety Realignment Act, better known as AB 109.
The act, which went into effect in late 2011, restructured the state’s prison system sending most lower-level offenders to jail instead of prison, authorities have explained.
His criminal history includes numerous felony drug convictions, as well as discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, committing a felony while out on bail, resisting arrest and weapon’s possession, jail records show.