Crime

Former Merced chief’s son-in-law found not guilty in manslaughter case, jury says

Jesse J. Saucedo III pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in connection with the April 9 death of Jack Kline, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.
Jesse J. Saucedo III pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in connection with the April 9 death of Jack Kline, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed. Merced County Sheriff’s Department

The son-in-law of a former Merced police chief was found not guilty on Tuesday of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a deadly fistfight at Merced Theatre more than four years ago.

The 2014 fight involved then 36-year-old Jesse Saucedo and 55-year-old Jack Kline, who later died, according to investigators. A Merced County jury returned the not guilty verdicts on all counts against Saucedo, according to his attorney, Kirk McAllister.

A number of issues with the testimony led to the verdict, according to McAllister. “Issues on the medical end of what actually caused the gentleman’s death,” he said. “They had a lot of evidence to sift through and they made the right decision.”

The fight took place during a show by comedian Ralphie May on the night of March 21, 2014. Someone in Saucedo’s party asked Kline’s wife, Tina Kline, to quiet down. Tina Kline, who is a correctional officer, said “F--- you, bitch” before giving the woman the middle finger, several witnesses said during testimony.

“We knew this case would be challenging both factually and legally,” Thomas Min, the prosecutor in the case, said in a statement. “However, we believed that it had to go in front of a jury. We are obviously disappointed in the verdict but appreciate the jury’s time in this matter.”

Saucedo testified he struck Kline twice as the man leaned over the seats, and said Kline never punched him but seemed to be advancing on him. He said he did not know why Kline was being aggressive.

Police previously said Kline acknowledged there had been a fight, and said Saucedo had struck him six times. An ambulance arrived and treated Kline’s wife for a cut to her face, but Kline was not taken to the hospital by emergency responders.

A doctor testified Kline had previously had four operations on his heart and admitted to falling and hitting his head a month prior to the fight. Kline was taken to the hospital by friends on the night of the fight and was released from a Modesto hospital days later, according to testimony.

He died on April 9, 2014, investigators said.

Saucedo is the son-in-law of former Merced Police Chief Norman Andrade, who was the chief at the time of the incident. His department also led the investigation. Police have said Andrade removed himself from the investigation and did not participate in or oversee any of the personnel involved.

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