'Person of interest' sought in disappearance of Modesto man

Authorities said they are looking for a “person of interest” in the disappearance of 45-year-old Ronnie Nicholas Martinez after Martinez’s Modesto house burned down Friday morning.

Homicide detectives want to talk to Martinez’s roommate, Michael Eugene Welch, 42, after they learned Welch was involved in a fight with Martinez three days before his disappearance May 11.

The house, on the 2700 block of West Whitmore Road, was engulfed in flames by 8:45 a.m., said Stanislaus County sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Winter. It was the last place anyone saw Martinez, Winter said.

Arson investigators from the Modesto Fire Department have yet to determine the cause of the fire, Winter said, and detectives are investigating the fire to see if it is connected to Martinez’s disappearance.

Anyone with information on this case can call Detective Darwin Hatfield at 525-7100. Callers can also leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 521-4636, e-mail tips at Crime Stoppers, or text them to CRIMES (274637) by typing “Tip704” plus the message. Tipsters are eligible for cash rewards.

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