Turlock man charged with attempted murder of Merced deputies
Merced County prosecutors on Tuesday charged the 40-year-old son of a Stanislaus County Superior Court civil judge with two counts of attempted murder of peace officers in connection with a gun battle last week on the outskirts of Snelling.
Kevin W. Mayhew made his first appearance Tuesday afternoon in Merced County Superior Court, but did not enter a plea. Mayhew appeared in dark-colored jail clothing and was seated in a wheelchair while speaking with Judge Harry Jacobs via video monitor. Mayhew asked the court to appoint a public defender to represent him, saying he couldn’t afford a private attorney.
“I have nothing to my name at all, Your Honor,” Mayhew said.
Vincent Andrade, Merced County chief deputy public defender, asked the judge to postpone Mayhew’s arraignment until Monday morning. The judge set Mayhew’s bail at $1.4 million.
Mayhew on Tuesday was charged with two counts of attempted murder of peace officers, plus potential sentencing enhancements to those charges for using a firearm. The enhancements could add up to a total of 40 years, if found true in court. Mayhew also was charged with evading peace officers and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, both felonies.
If convicted on all charges, Mayhew faces a potential life prison sentence and would be forced to serve at least 40 years before becoming eligible for parole, according to Harold Nutt, the Merced County chief deputy district attorney who filed the charges.
Nutt said Mayhew was charged with two counts of attempting to kill to peace officers because prosecutors have only been able to review evidence that Mayhew specifically fired at a Merced County sheriff’s patrol car with two deputies seated inside. Additional reports are expected in the coming days and weeks.
“Additional evidence is still coming in and it’s possible additional charges could be added to the case later,” Nutt told the Sun-Star.
Six peace officers were involved in the shootout — Merced County Sheriff’s Deputies Jesus Meraz, Derek Bethel, and Robert Hawkins; Merced Police Officer Joseph Opinski and Sgt. Brian Rodriguez; and Turlock Police Officer Adam Neep. All six names were released Tuesday.
Neep has been a Turlock police officer for two years. Opinski joined the Merced department in late 2013. Rodriguez has been a Merced police officer for more than 12 years. Hawkins has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2011 and both Bethel and Meraz joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2016.
None of the deputies or officers were injured. All six remain on administrative leave pending review, a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
Mayhew is the son of William Mayhew, who has been a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge since 1994. He currently is assigned to the county’s civil court bench.
The charges filed Tuesday against the younger Mayhew stem from a lengthy car chase Thursday that started with a homicide investigation in Turlock. Police in Turlock were preparing to serve a search warrant in the area of Quincy Road and Hawkeye Avenue as part of their investigation into the Oct. 31, 2016, slaying of Juy Anthony Gastelo.
According to police, Gastelo, a 30-year-old Turlock man with a history of drug and theft-related arrests, broke into a home that day in the 300 block of North Thor Street and was shot and killed by the resident, whose name has not been confirmed by police. Officers are investigating his death as a homicide and, last week, confirmed Mayhew is a “person of interest” in that case.
Turlock police on Thursday said they spotted Mayhew putting a gun case into a vehicle as they were preparing to serve the search warrant. When officers tried to stop Mayhew’s vehicle, they said, he sped away. Turlock police chased Mayhew into Merced County, where the Merced County Sheriff’s Office and, eventually, the Merced Police Department, got involved in the pursuit.
The lengthy chase wound through the city of Merced and into Snelling area, where Mayhew’s car was disabled when he drove over a police spike strip. Authorities said Mayhew opened fire from inside his car and the officers and deputies returned fire. Mayhew suffered a single grazing wound during the gunfight. The non-life-threatening injury was treated at a Modesto hospital before Mayhew was booked into the jail.
It remained unclear Tuesday which of the six officers struck Mayhew during the gunfire exchange. It also remained unclear exactly how many shots were fired.
According to Modesto Bee archives, Mayhew was convicted in 2002 of felony vandalism stemming from a March 2001 window-smashing spree. Mayhew and two accomplices used slingshots and marbles to shoot out windows in businesses and parked cars, causing more than $100,000 in damage to dozens of Modesto and Turlock businesses, authorities said.
Mayhew remains in custody at the Merced County Jail.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482