Man who was once Merced cold case suspect arrested on new charge, police say

The prime suspect in the cold case slaying of Merced resident Michael Riley was arrested Thursday after he reportedly threatened to kill his wife with a gun before leading officers on a chase and abandoning his children in a car, police said.

Jerome Slayton, 31, was arrested last year and faced a murder charge in Merced County, accused of the 2008 slaying of Riley. But charges were dropped after the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and Merced Police Department couldn’t find a key witness to the murder.

Courtesy San Jose Police Department

San Jose police responded to reports of a criminal threat or domestic violence incident at Regional Medical Center in San Jose at about 10:56 p.m. Wednesday, according to a San Jose Police Department news release.

Slayton’s wife told police he threatened to kill her with a gun, the release states.

At about 1:45 a.m. that night, an officer spotted Slayton’s vehicle leading to a pursuit, according to the release.

The pursuit ended at a dead end street and Slayton fled police on foot, the release states. But police initially didn’t know he fled and saw occupants in the car, believing Slayton to be one of them.

Police established a perimeter around the vehicle with an armored vehicle on scene, according to the release. About two hours later, officers cleared the scene and discovered Slayton’s children, ages 8 and 9, were sleeping in the vehicle.

Later Thursday, San Jose detectives located and arrested Slayton, who was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of criminal threats, being a felon in possession of a firearm, evading police and child endangerment. He remained in custody Friday, according to jail records.

The Merced Police Department and Merced County District Attorney’s Office couldn’t immediately comment on Slayton’s arrest.

Anyone with information on the San Jose incident is being asked to contact San Jose Police Detective Gil Fox at 408-277-3700. Anonymous tips can be sent to crime stoppers at 408-947-7867.

This story will be updated.