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Who would execute a baby? Tulare sheriff said a drug cartel, then backtracks

"Road Closed" signs in front of sheriff's department cars.
Tulare County sheriff deputies continue their investigation at the scene of a shooting that killed six people in Goshen.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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The body of the 16-year-old girl was found crumpled outside the home, along with her dead 10-month-old son. It was clear to investigators who came upon the scene in the early hours of Monday morning that the young mother had tried to run away with her baby in her arms. But forensic evidence showed she had been caught before she could escape, and both she and her child were shot in the forehead from above, execution style.

Four other people, including a grandmother asleep in her bed, were killed with similar cold professionalism in the rampage at a family compound in the farm town of Goshen.

Speaking to reporters just a few hours after his deputies had responded to the violent scene, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux characterized the massacre as a targeted attack by an unspecified drug cartel. “The drug cartel,” in his words. What else could explain the depravity of executing a baby?

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Twenty-four hours later, at a news conference Tuesday in which he identified the six victims and pleaded with the public to come forward with information, the sheriff modulated that assertion slightly. “I’m not saying this is a cartel,” he said. “But I am not eliminating that possibility.”

In this impoverished, dusty outskirt of the San Joaquin Valley, and far beyond, many were left considering the same possibilities when grappling with who would commit such a heinous crime.

Boudreaux said investigators were looking for at least two shooters. The victims, many of whom were related and who ranged in age from 72 to 10 months, were shot in the head and “in places a shooter would know a quick death” would follow. “Going in and massacring an entire family goes above and beyond,” he said. “Which is why I continue to focus back on high-level gang-style execution or cartel-style execution, because this is not normal.”

Standing behind the sheriff as he spoke were agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI — just a few of the many agencies the sheriff said have stepped in to assist Tulare County investigators in solving the crime.

The sheriff said that at least three people survived the rampage, which began when the assailants forced open a door to the home on Harvest Avenue, a residential pocket of houses circled by chain link fences in a mostly industrial area bordering State Route 99. One man in the main house hid by lying on the floor of a room while two women were in a trailer where the gunmen did not find them.

The survivors, the sheriff said, are “providing a great deal of information,” though he declined to reveal it. “I know a lot, but I can’t answer that question,” he said at one point, adding that the perpetrators could be watching his news conference.

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The sheriff said his deputies arrived at the compound just seven minutes after the first 911 call, but the shooters were long gone by then.

A poster displaying images of the six homicide victims
A poster of the victims of the Goshen homicides is displayed at a Tulare County sheriff’s news conference.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Boudreaux asked for help from the public in the investigation, requesting that neighbors, business owners and anyone in the area of the shooting check for video footage from early Monday, and share anything suspicious with law enforcement. Officials announced a $10,000 reward for information that would help move the investigation forward.

“We’re pulling out all stops, we’re turning over every rock,” he said.

The sheriff also noted that the property where the massacre occurred was a “known home to our department” for gang activity.

He said deputies had found guns, marijuana and methamphetamine at the home Jan. 3, following a parole compliance check.

They arrested one of the victims of the massacre, Eladio Parraz Jr., after that search, but said they did not believe their search was related to the violence, nor that Parraz, who was 52, was its intended target. They declined to say whether they believed they knew who the target was.

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In court records filed in conjunction with the parole check, officials describe Eladio Parraz Jr. as a “documented Sureño gang member.” The Sureños are a group of loosely connected gangs that answer to the Mexican Mafia prison gang. He was detained on suspicion of being a felon in possession of ammunition after deputies found live rounds and spent shell casings from a shotgun and semi-automatic handgun on the ground, and was released a few days later.

For the record:

8:25 a.m. Jan. 19, 2023An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of one of the victims as Elyssa Parraz. The 16-year-old’s name is Alissa.

But the sheriff said many of the people killed at the property had no gang affiliation. He named Rosa Parraz, the 72-year-old grandmother killed in her bed, along with Alissa Parraz, 16, the young mother, and her 10-month old baby, Nycholas, as “innocent victims.” (The Sheriff’s Office initially released the incorrect spelling of Alissa Parraz’s first name, as well as incorrect ages for her and her son.)

Other victims identified Tuesday were Marcos Parraz, 19, and Jennifer Analla, 50.

“I cannot comprehend it,” Alissa Parraz’s grandfather told ABC 30 News. “I can’t understand who can just kill a baby like that. I can’t wrap my head around it. How can someone be a monster and do that?”

An elderly woman was also fatally shot in her bed in what the sheriff says was likely a targeted attack by a drug cartel. Two suspects are sought.

Jan. 16, 2023

The slayings have stunned the quiet town of Goshen, a mostly Latino community of about 5,000 just outside Visalia, and brought a wave of fear to the area. Since at least the 1970s, Tulare County has played an outsized role in the transnational drug trade between Mexico and U.S. markets, which has repeatedly brought violence to the Central Valley county.

As news of the massacre sank in, a palpable air of trepidation seemed to descend on the neighborhood where the violence occurred. On three occasions, residents approached a Times reporter in the area, asking him to move his unfamiliar car from near their homes. All declined to identify themselves, though one explained that they didn’t want a local gang to think they had spoken to the police.

Three Tulare County sheriff’s cruisers sat parked in the middle of Harvest Avenue on Tuesday morning, which remained blocked between Ivy Road and Highway 68.

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Mike Alrahimi, owner of a general store around the block from the site of Monday’s shooting, said he was horrified by the violence.

Alrahimi said he didn’t know the family but figured they must have been in his store at some point. Nothing so violent has happened in the neighborhood in the 39 years he has lived in the area.

“I feel bad for the family, for the neighborhood,” Alrahimi, 65, said. “Everyone is sad.”

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