Investigations by Merced police into a pair of recent homicide cases resulted in two arrests this week.
Suspect Pete Valenzuela, 27, and Patrick Ryan Cervantes, 23, are accused of the Dec. 1 killings of Luis Humberto Morales, 21, and Benjamin Samuel Mariano, 21. In addition, Valenzuela is accused of killing Antonio David Jacobo on Oct. 10 in the 1300 block of West 6th Street.
Merced Police Sgt. Scott Skinner said the suspects were already inmates at the Merced County Jail on other charges when they were were arrested for murder this week.
Skinner said detectives were able to tie the homicides to the suspects after a Dec. 23 incident in the 400 block of West 23rd St. In that case, the suspects and another man entered the home of Cervantes' ex-girlfriend and pistol whipped one of her male friends. As the victim fled on foot, two shots were fired.
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Police found 9 mm shell casings at the West 23rd St. home. Skinner said some of the evidence collected is being tested by the Department of Justice, but tests confirm the 9 mm shell casings found at the West 23rd Street location was fired from the same gun used in all the homicides. The weapon hasn’t been recovered.
Police believe Valenzuela was the triggerman in both homicide cases, while Cervantes assisted in the Dec. 1 double homicide case. Skinner said police don't believe Cervantes was involved in Jacobo's death.
Skinner didn’t elaborate on a motive for the killings, although he did say the Dec. 1 killings of Morales and Mariano are gang related. Skinner said Valenzuela's considered a gang dropout.
In the Oct. 10 homicide, police arrived around 10:46 p.m. in the 1200 block of West Sixth Street and found Jacobo lying unconscious on the south side of the sidewalk near Margaret Sheehy Elementary School.
The deaths of Morales of Mariano were reported at 4:25 a.m. Dec. 1. Dispatch received a call of a suspicious person brandishing a firearm. Officers went to the scene in the 2200 block of Canal Street and found the two victims with gunshot wounds. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Of the eight homicide cases reported last year in Merced, Skinner said six have resulted in arrests. Police are asking anyone with information about the cases to call Detective Joe Deliman at (209) 385-6992 or Detective Robert Solis at (209) 385-4703. Tips can be sent via anonymous text messages by dialing "TIP411" (847411) and including the word "ComVIP" as the keyword in the text message.
Both suspects are being held without bail on suspicion of homicide.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.