4 victims identified, but mystery still surrounds Mojave Desert mass shooting days later

Two figures walking through a landscape of motor homes and houses, with arid mountains on the horizon.
Four people were shot to death in a recreational vehicle on this property on H Street in Mojave late Sunday night.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities on Wednesday identified the three women and one man who were shot to death in an RV in Mojave, Calif., this week, but after more than two days, not much else is known about the mass shooting that rattled this tiny desert community.

Anna Marie Hester, 34, Darius Travon Canada, 31, and Martina Barraza, 33, all of Mojave, and California City resident Faith Leighanne Rose Asbury, 20, were killed Sunday evening, according to the Kern County coroner’s office.

Asbury was taken to a hospital Sunday night and died Monday, according to officials.

What was the nation’s 185th mass shooting of 2023, according to the independent research group Gun Violence Archive, has received little media coverage in this remote desert area about 60 miles east of Bakersfield, and very little information has been provided by law enforcement.


Lori Meza, a spokesperson for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, said evidence was being processed. Homicide investigators have not disclosed a possible motive or any details about a suspect, but several hours after the shooting, sheriff’s officials said the community was not under any immediate threat.

The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview Wednesday and in a statement said the investigation was in a “preliminary status” and there were currently no suspects.

“Kern County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Detectives are diligently working this case, actively pursuing leads, and conducting investigative follow up as well as working to ensure the investigation is thorough, lawful, and factual,” the statement from the Sheriff’s Office said.

A spokesperson for Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, who represents the Mojave area, declined to comment on the killings and deferred all questions to the Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators did not provide information on a suspect but said there was no immediate threat to the community.

May 1, 2023

Investigators are asking anyone who spotted suspicious activity in the area to come forward, Meza said.

If an agency notifies the community that there is no cause for alarm after a quadruple homicide, then law enforcement authorities probably have a good idea who their suspect is based on the evidence at the crime scene, said Joseph Giacalone, adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired New York Police Department sergeant who directed that agency’s Homicide School and Cold Case Squad.


If that’s not the case, Giacalone said, then investigators will need to rely on the public to help solve their investigation and get information out to the public.

“Getting it out into the media is an important step in solving these cases,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a reluctance on that part, and if it is, it’s foolish.”

Kern County sheriff’s deputies were called to a barren dirt lot on H Street in Mojave around 11:20 p.m. Sunday. Inside an RV, police found four people shot: a man and two women who were already dead, and a third woman who would die at a hospital, Meza said.

Investigators said they knew what caliber gun was used in the killing but did not find a weapon at the scene.

Kenny Heller, 62, whose property abuts the lot, heard the shots through a back window he’d left open to catch the night breeze: four in quick succession, he said.

The first RV showed up on the lot on H Street about a year and a half ago, Heller said. The grandmother of the RV’s occupant once lived in a house next to the lot. But she fell behind on taxes and lost the house, Heller said. The home has since been fenced off, its windows and doors covered with plywood.

Police would come every once in a while and red-tag the RVs that gathered there, Heller said. People from the real estate company that owned the lot told the occupants to leave. But they stayed, the mounds of junk growing, syringes cast off in the dirt, he said.

Another resident said the victims were homeless and spent most of their time in the area, which includes a vacant lot west of Highway 14 separated from the center of town by railroad tracks.

After a third person was viciously stabbed in less than a week, Davis police conducted a yard-to-yard search for the assailant but came up empty-handed.

May 2, 2023

In 2021, Kern County had the highest homicide rate in California with 13.7 killings per 100,000 residents, according to a report from Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta. The statewide rate was 6 people killed per 100,000.


After Sunday’s mass killing, residents and groups that provide homeless services to the rural community were unsettled.

Anna Saavedra, who supervises the East Kern Family Resource Center in Mojave, said she and others were still uneasy.

“We’re open, but we locked our doors,” Saavedra said of the center, which offers a food pantry, emergency clothing services and parenting training.

The day after the shooting, there was no heavy media presence in Mojave.

Gun violence has become the drumbeat of our days. We say we’re shocked, but we’re really not. We say we’re in disbelief, yet we’re really not.

Jan. 29, 2023

Giacalone said it was possible that there is fatigue among the public when it comes to mass shootings.

On April 15, he noted, four people were killed and 32 injured when a gunman opened fire at a 16th birthday party in Dadeville, Ala. To Giacalone, coverage of the shooting did not last very long in the news cycle.

“I think the American people have kind of gotten desensitized to mass shootings,” he said. “It’s up to the news media to also pick up on these stories.”


Anyone with information about the homicide investigation in Mojave is urged to contact the Kern County Sheriff’s Office at (661) 861-3110, or they can leave an anonymous tip at (661) 322-4040.

Los Angeles Times staff reporter Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.