Six Merced County Jail inmates face murder charges in connection with the death last week of another inmate who apparently was beaten in his dormitory, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.
Jesse Rodriguez, 23, Michael Turner, 32, Jose Santana, 21, Brenden Chanminalatha, 19, Francisco Gonzales, 20, and Anthony Salinas, 18, are expected to be charged with murder in connection with the Sept. 20 death of an inmate, Sgt. Delray Shelton said Tuesday.
Detective-Sgt. Chuck Hale confirmed all six are suspects in the killing of 29-year-old Alejandro Vega.
Harold Nutt, chief deputy district attorney, confirmed prosecutors plan to file murder charges against all six inmates. No court dates had been scheduled as of Tuesday.
Vega apparently was beaten sometime before 5 p.m. on Sept. 19. There was some confusion over exactly when the victim was taken off life support, but deputies on Tuesday confirmed the victim died Sept. 20.
Investigators have not commented on a motive for the attack, but have said all six suspects and the victim belonged to Norteno street gangs in Merced County.
“We can say the assault came from orders within the gang structure,” Hale said. He declined to elaborate Tuesday.
Santana was arrested in 2013 in connection with the slaying of Jose Sandoval on April 25, 2013. He is scheduled for a jury trial on Nov. 10, according to Sun-Star archives.
Rodriguez initially was booked in July after his parole was revoked. He already was facing charges of corporal injury to a family member, sexual battery and making criminal threats. His criminal history includes convictions for arson, burglary, evading police and drunken driving, according to booking records.
Turner’s history includes convictions for gang participation, vehicle theft and drug possession, according to jail records. Records show he was in custody charged with assault with a firearm.
Gonzales was serving two years in the county jail after admitting his fourth probation violation since his conviction in 2013 on drug possession for sale charges, according to booking records.
Salinas was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of robbery in a carjacking case out of Los Banos. He is scheduled to appear in court again Oct. 30, according to booking records.
Chanminalatha pleaded guilty earlier this year to an assault with a firearm charge. He is scheduled for sentencing in that case Nov. 6.
The inmate’s death brings the total number of homicides in 2015 in Merced County to 24.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482