Merced police have arrested two men accused of bludgeoning a Fremont man to death inside a West 20th Street home.
Jerry Dale Choate, 22, and Christopher Paul Anderson, 19, were arrested Monday for allegedly killing 51-year-old Richard Mora. Detectives believe Mora, a handyman, had been renovating the home when the suspects killed him during a burglary attempt.
A concerned friend of the victim found his body inside the home at 326 W. 20th St. on Aug. 1 and notified law enforcement officers. From the beginning, as a precaution, police treated the case as a homicide. It took several days to identify Mora's badly decomposed body. An autopsy determined the victim died from blunt force trauma to the upper body.
Detective Joe Deliman, the lead investigator on the case, said it's unknown when the brutal attack happened, although investigators believe the two men are responsible. Police also say they have the weapon used in the killing: a 2½-foot-long wooden handle.
Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade said during a press conference that tips from the public played an active role in solving the case. "Had it not been for the public's help in contacting the Merced Police Department, we would've had a lot more trouble, and may not have even solved the crime," Andrade said.
At the time of his arrest for the killing, Choate was in jail on unrelated charges stemming from an Aug. 4 arrest on a domestic violence warrant and for allegedly violating his parole.
Meanwhile, Anderson was taken into custody at the home of a relative in Atwater, police said.
During the burglary, police say, the suspects took power and hand tools. Those tools haven't been recovered.
Both suspects were booked on suspicion of homicide and burglary. Choate is being held without bail, while Anderson is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Mora is the 19th reported homicide victim in Merced County this year, and the fifth in Merced.
Last year, there were 13 homicides reported countywide January through August. A total of 22 homicides were reported in all of last year.
Detectives ask anyone who may have bought the stolen tools to call Deliman at (209) 385-6992 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Calls are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.