Police make progress in murder investigation

Merced detectives are still investigating the shooting death of a 29-year-old Merced College student.

Michael Laval Riley was found dead early Tuesday in a muddy patch in front of the Village Meadows apartment complex on Loughborough Drive.

Police haven’t made any arrests, though Cmdr. Floyd Higdon said the investigation is making progress.

"We still believe there’s more out there," Higdon said. "It’s a slow process."

Some witnesses are being cooperative, though Higdon declined to say what detectives have learned.

Riley was a six-year veteran of the Navy and had been attending Merced College since 2007. He planned to transfer to California State University, Stanislaus, to study political science and law.

Professors described him as a dedicated student who liked talking about the ’60s. He was planning to attend a scholarship awards banquet Friday night.

In an autobiographical statement turned in for the scholarship, he said he had a 4.0 GPA and admired John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black American on the nation’s top court.

The shooting is the county’s 20th homicide and the city’s eighth this year. Four of the killings have been solved.

Riley was a resident of the Loughborough area, though he didn’t live in the complex where he was shot. Police investigators haven’t said what led to the shooting.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Detective Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702, or the department’s tip line at (209) 385-4725.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.