Merced County Sheriff's investigators say they've arrested two women suspects in a bizarre highway robbery reported on Sandy Mush Road earlier this month.
When the crime was first reported, the victim told deputies he'd given three women a lift from Shannon's Grocery Liquor and Deli. Deputies have since learned the victim wasn't being totally honest, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
The victim said he turned on Sandy Mush Road, and a white four-door truck with two Latino men drove up. The victim told deputies that two men, along with the three women, robbed him of his belongings and took off.
That story, MacKenzie said, didn't match up. "During the investigation we learned that (the victim) omitted certain details," MacKenzie said, adding that the man was probably embarrassed.
Investigators now believe the robbery on Aug. 15 happened after the victim had been at a car wash on 12th Street and Martin Luther Kings Way.
The women were holding a car wash to raise money for a man who was stabbed to death, the boyfriend of 29-year-old suspect Sara Kellum of Merced. The man approached Kellum and another suspect, 24-year-old Crystal Baeza. The suspects led the man to believe they would offer him sexual favors, MacKenzie said.
After the women got into the man’s vehicle, he drove to Shannon’s Grocery Liquor-Deli at 369 S. State Highway 59 and bought some beer. He left the liquor store and drove on Sandy Mush Road, where the vehicle blew a tire, MacKenzie said.
Kellum called a friend at the car wash, asking him to come pick them up.
The friend, however, had no idea the girls were planning on robbing the man, MacKenzie said. After their ride arrived, the two women turned on the victim with a baseball bat and crow bar, taking his wallet and some bank statements. They got into their friend’s vehicle and left, MacKenzie said.
After further investigation, deputies identified Baeza as one of the suspects and obtained an arrest warrant and search warrant for her residence in the 600 block of Loughbrough Drive. She was arrested on Aug. 19, and deputies discovered bank statements and receipts belonging to the victim.
Deputies also arrested Baeza's sister, 25-year-old Erica Aguilar, for allegedly using the victim’s stolen credit cards. Aguilar was not involved in the robbery, MacKenzie said.
Kellum was arrested on August 24 at her residence in the 2000 block of 9th Street in Merced.
Kellum was booked suspicion of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime and is being held in lieu of $80,000 bail. Baeza was booked on the arrest warrant for robbery and two outstanding felony warrants and is being held in lieu of $300,000 bail.
Aguilar was booked on suspicion of using stolen credit cards, and is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.