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Suspect identified in 1998 murder at Merced National Wildlife Refuge

A suspect has been named in the 1998 unsolved killing of a 28-year-old man at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

John Ruben Rivera, a 42-year-old inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison, has been named as the sole suspect in the shooting death of Ray Sabala, according to Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II. The victim's body was found on April 23, 1998. Sabala had been shot three times.

Morse didn't go into many specifics about the circumstances of Sabala's death, although he did confirm that Merced County Sheriff's deputies have new evidence that points to Rivera as the killer.

Investigators believe Rivera was at the wildlife refuge with Sabala and two other individuals the day the victim was shot and killed.

Rivera is expected to be arrested at the prison on homicide charges Thursday, and his arraignment in Merced County Superior Court is scheduled for July 6. He'll be transported back to Merced County Jail to face those charges, Morse said.

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