There’s no mystery about how a man whose body was found burned and wrapped in a rug in a Central California orchard was killed, investigators say, because it was all recorded on a cellphone.
On Tuesday morning, authorities say a woman walked into the Merced police station with a disturbing admission -- she’d seen a video of her former boyfriend beating and stabbing a man to death in his apartment.
The man’s body was so badly burned authorities have yet to determine his identity. But in interviewing the woman, detectives found out he was one of the attacker’s three roommates, and the other men who lived there watched the killing.
Officials realized the crime occurred in Atwater, in Merced County sheriff’s jurisdiction, and handed it off to that department’s major crimes detectives, said Merced County Sheriff’s Sgt. Delray Shelton.
Within hours of the woman first reaching out to police, deputies arrested the alleged killer, Dionicio Gutierrez-Salazar, 37, and his roommates, Francisco Alvarez, 25, and Alexis Eduardo Garcia-Jimenez, 25.
All three are being held on $1-million bail on suspicion of murder.
Detectives served a search warrant Tuesday at the men’s apartment on San Joaquin Court and found a knife and blood splatters, Shelton said. They also have the cellphone with the video on it, he said.
During interviews, one of Salazar’s roommates confessed to witnessing the killing and said he knew where the victim’s body was left, Shelton said.
Authorities found the man’s body in an almond orchard outside of town, Shelton said. It was wrapped in a rug and burned. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.
In all his time working in Merced County, Shelton said he’d never seen a case like this.
“Most homicides are stabbed or shot. It’s nothing of this magnitude … where they start small and finish strong,” he said.
The victim, estimated to be in his 30s or 40s, was beaten and stabbed repeatedly, Shelton said. He may have also been alive when his body was set on fire. Local media reports indicate he was tied up when he was stabbed. And the fact it was all filmed sets it apart, Shelton said.
Gutierrez-Salazar “has a very violent past,” Shelton said. Authorities say he’s connected to another killing in 2013 that involved a stabbing, but was never arrested or convicted.
The date of the roommate’s killing was not immediately known. But investigators say it was the result of a drug- and alcohol-induced fight between Gutierrez-Salazar and his roommate in front of the other two men.
The argument started with words, then turned physical and ended with Gutierrez-Salazar killing the man as one of his roommates recorded it, Shelton said.
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