While the crimes were less highly publicized than the kidnapping and murder of Juliani Cardenas in 2011 and the high-profile spring gang shootings of that year, 2012 was in many ways a rocky a ride.
Patterson had barely put 2011 to bed when deputies from Patterson Police Services and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department responded on Jan. 4 to the county’s first killing, in Felipe Garza Park on the east side of the city.
Police found the body of 19-year-old Jesus Gallardo, who had been shot to death behind the backstop of the baseball diamond at the park on Hartley Street in east Patterson, shortly after dispatchers received a call at 6:33 p.m. indicating that gunshots were fired in the area.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Detective Darwin Hatfield convinced a judge to sign an arrest warrant three weeks later for 22-year-old Victor Valdovinos, according to Sgt. Anthony Bejaran of the sheriff’s department.
Valdovinos, who remained at large as of press time this week, is described as a 5-foot-11 Latino man weighing about 220 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
Bejaran said investigators believe Valdovinos is hiding in Mexico with family members and has been spotted from time to time in Patterson.
Tips to police have not led to any solid leads, he said.
A friend of Gallardo’s family told the Irrigator that Valdovinos picked up the victim from his house the night of the shooting.
It would not be the last shooting death in the area in 2012.
Deaths in Del Puerto Canyon
Seven months later, emergency crews discovered two bodies on Del Puerto Canyon Road near the 10-mile marker.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 4, the two Latino men were found bound and shot.
The county coroner’s division later identified the men as San Jose resident Esteban Carlos Martinez, 39, and Redwood City resident Pedro Garcia-Valencia, 53.
Stanislaus Sheriff’s Detective Cory Brown said Wednesday, Dec. 19 that the two men were last seen getting into a dark green or black late model BMW X5 sport utility vehicle. Known associates and family members of the two men said they did not recognize the vehicle and have been uncooperative with investigators, Brown said.
In October, another man was found shot to death less than two miles from where Garcia-Valencia’s and Martinez’s bodies were found.
According to sheriff’s deputies, the body of Javier Alvarez Medina, a 31-year-old from San Jose, was found Oct. 6 in a ravine off the side of Del Puerto Canyon Road at the 12-mile marker.
An autopsy revealed that Medina had been dead about a week when discovered and had died as a result of a gunshot.
Investigators said at the time that they had difficulty interviewing family members, who also refused to cooperate.
Few details have emerged about what Medina was doing before his death. He was last seen in San Jose on Sept. 29, Bejaran stated in early October.
Medina had previously used the name Adan Loya Medina and had been deported for a 2008 felony conviction for drug sales and trafficking, according to sheriff’s officials.
Property crimes spike
Violent deaths were not the only crimes to gain attention on the West Side in 2012. Property crimes surged by the middle of the year, according to Patterson Police Chief Tori Hughes.
Burglaries and auto thefts were up from 2011. Hughes blamed the upswing on Assembly Bill 109, a measure approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 that transferred responsibility for nonviolent criminals, such as those who committed property crimes, to local jails.
The plan was a response to a Supreme Court ruling that declared the prison system was overcrowded.
Many nonviolent offenders ended up being released because local jails were overwhelmed, Hughes said.
“Property crimes have been hit extensively,” Hughes said, while giving a report on local crime to the City Council in July. “We see (burglars) out not long after they’re in jail.”
Hughes told the council that the number of burglaries reported in Patterson had increased by more than 20 percent from the first six months of 2011 to the first six months of 2012, and auto thefts increased by more than 40 percent between those same periods.
Still, Hughes said the rates did not exceed those the city experienced in 2010.
Burglary attempt ends in shooting death
At least one alleged attempted burglary appeared to result in the death of a suspected burglar.
Juan Armando Silva, 22, of Patterson, was shot and killed at about 1 a.m. Sept. 3 as he tried to enter through a window of a home on the 1400 block of Shearwater Drive, according to sheriff’s investigators.
Sheriff’s deputies said that morning that a 19-year-old man was responsible for a fatal shooting, but no arrest was made.
According to sheriff’s reports, the 19-year-old had called 911. Emergency responders found Silva lying in the driveway of a neighboring home on the 1400 block of Shearwater Drive.
The 19-year-old was the only person in the house at the time, according to investigators. Other family members were out of town on a camping trip.
Patterson police arrested Patterson resident Luis Ballesteros, 25, on Sept. 4 in connection with the alleged attempted burglary.
Brown, who also investigated this case, alleged Sept. 7 that Ballesteros advised Silva that the home was vacant.
“We believe (Ballesteros) is the one who put the burglary in motion,” Brown said.
No one has been arrested for Silva’s death.
Rural Patterson Carjacking leads to Patterson suspect in Anderson
An unidentified man was found shot next to a cornfield east of Patterson and his SUV was stolen, Aug. 20. The sheriff’s department later identified the victim as 46-year-old John Tenbrink of Patterson.
Deputies responded to a report at 1:05 p.m. of a person with a gunshot wound who was found on the 2600 block of Orange Avenue.
Tenbrink was shot at least once in the chest and was transported by ambulance to the nearby Las Palmas Avenue Fishing Access, where he was airlifted to an area hospital. The victim notified deputies that his 2007 green Toyota SUV had been stolen.
A Patterson man was later arrested in a separate incident in Anderson with a vehicle that met the description of the Toyota from the Patterson shooting two days later.
Anderson Police Department reports indicate that 27 year-old Ignacio Gutierrez-Valle, of Patterson, was driving a stolen blue-green Toyota RAV4 when he was arrested for allegedly robbing a woman of her purse while she was parked with her child inside a Walmart parking lot.
He was booked into the Shasta County Jail and was being held on $1.05 million bond.
Home invasion robbery in rural Patterson leaves deputies without suspects
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department investigated a home invasion robbery after receiving word that three white males entered a home on the 1800 block of Walnut Avenue at about 2:30 p.m., Aug. 22, and tied up a woman before stealing undisclosed items.
The culprits were last seen running through a cornfield next to the home, according to Deputy Raj Singh of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. At least one of the suspects was armed, Singh said, although sheriff's officials further details were not disclosed.
After the robbers left, the woman was eventually able to untie herself and contact 911, Singh said.
Sheriff's deputies, K9 units, a helicopter and Patterson and Newman police searched the area for about three hours but ultimately called off the search at 5:30 p.m. without finding the suspects.
Public Safety Center escapee busted, fires set in Honor Farm escape attempt
A week later, auto-theft task force agents, Patterson police and sheriff’s deputies were busy again as they tracked down an escapee from the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on Sept. 11.
Joshua Best, 24, originally from Keyes, was found hiding in a field off the 1800 block of Orange Avenue near Elm Avenue east of Patterson by dog teams that tracked him there after he refused to surrender, according to Sgt. Buster Crabb of the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force.
Medics treated Best at the scene for severe dog bites before he was taken away in a police car at about 9:30 p.m., Crabb stated.
Best previously escaped through a ceiling vent at the public safety center in August, Crabb said. He apparently climbed out of the jail using a rope made out of bed sheets, according to the sergeant.
In November, inmates at the Stanislaus County Honor Farm set fires in an apparent attempt to be released for the holidays.
Unidentified inmates started small fires Nov. 17 and Nov. 19 at the minimum-security facility east of Grayson, according to Sheriff Adam Christianson, by punching a hole in a barracks bathroom ceiling and stuffing the hole combustible materials, such as paper napkins.
Staff and firefighters quickly extinguished the fires, which forced a temporary evacuation of inmates into the kitchen.
“Both of these are intentional acts,” Christianson said Nov. 20. “We’ve learned from the intelligence information we have gathered that they decided that if they burned down Barracks 3, the Honor Farm would have to release people from facility, and they could go home for holidays.”
No suspects were named, and Christianson said he did not expect that inmates would “rat each other out.”
Drug agents were busy throughout the second half of the year, busting people for cultivating marijuana around the West Side. Marijuana busts skyrocketed during the late summer harvest season because people in town begin smelling the distinct odor of the plants and called in tips, said Patterson Police Sgt. John Walker, Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Walker said it while all numbers for the year weren’t yet available, it seemed like a busier than normal year for marijuana drug busts.
Tips have poured in from residents regarding the houses suspected of growing marijuana leading to 17 search warrants, more than 5,000 plants confiscated and nearly 175 pounds of finished product during the second half of the year.
Officers from the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency removed more than 6,800 pounds of marijuana plants growing just south of Patterson on July 26. Much of the crop was intended for a San Jose-based medical marijuana collective, DEA agents said.
Agents seized about 1,200 plants ranging from 3 to 7 feet tall from the backyard of a home on the 100 block of Holly Avenue and from within a plywood wall surrounded by cornstalks on Highway 33 between Holly and Almond avenues.
Sgt. Bob Hunt of the Stanislaus DEA said the operation was easily identified as commercial because of the number of plants.
Four men — Javier Arias Guzman, 52, of Martinez; Merchor Cardenas, 19, of San Jose; Camilo Lopez Sujuan, 42, a resident of Mexico who was in the United States illegally; and Eric Pinal, 27, of San Jose — were arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation and distribution.
Cardenas and Pinal both said they were being paid to grow marijuana for the San Jose-based Yerba Buena Collective, while Guzman and Sujuan said they planned to sell their crop to a collective for profit, according to Hunt.
On Aug. 23, law enforcement agents uncovered pot plants worth an estimated $750,000 as they served five search warrants at houses in western Patterson.
Patterson police, sheriff’s deputies and Stanislaus DEA agents participated in the operation, which uncovered 1,800 plants weighing 750 pounds, according to a release from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
In the process, Phu Van Dinh, 40, was booked into Stanislaus County Jail in Modesto on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and of illegally diverting electricity for a house on the 1300 block of Beaver Creek Court.
On Sept. 25, police arrested three Patterson residents on drug-related charges after searching their home on warrants. The searches led them to find one home with dozens of pot plants and another home with 40 pounds of dried marijuana and 7.5 grams of pot-laced brownies.
Chad McGarry, 35, and Kristina McGarry, 33, were both arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale, and Chad McGarry also was charged with marijuana cultivation, after the dried weed and brownies were found at their home on the 600 block of Westfield Lane, according to a release from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
Ron Hunter Sr., 58, was arrested earlier that day on suspicion of cultivating marijuana after police found 33 pot plants at his home on the 200 block of Paramatta Drive and another 30 harvested plants that had recently been moved to another location, according to the release.
In late October eight West Side residents were arrested on suspicion of illegal drug offenses, while a 21-year-old Patterson woman was cited and released for a suspected probation violation after an early morning police raid at three residences on the corner of West Las Palmas Avenue and Sixth Street.
On Oct. 23 Detectives found and detained more than 20 people who were found inside the homes, according to a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department press release. One of the houses had no utilities and was previously declared vacant. Some of the people who were detained were questioned and later released. Detectives found evidence inside all three homes relating to the investigation, the release stated.
Police arrested eight people on drug charges and cited and released one woman for violating probation.
Those who were arrested were as follows:
• Babette Spears, 41, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and a probation violation
• Frank Minjarez, 46, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale, heroin possession, and narcotics sales near a school grounds
• Jose Ramos, 53, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of heroin and narcotics sales near a school grounds
• Alma Quintero, 20, of Newman, on suspicion of heroin possession
• Gabriel Minjarez, 18, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales
• Claralyn Smith, 37, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of heroin and narcotics sales near a school grounds
• Luis Figueroa, 29, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and a probation violation
• Pedro Palafox, 25, of Patterson, on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and a probation violation
• Marisol Hernandez, 21, of Patterson, who was cited and released for allegedly violating probation.
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or firstname.lastname@example.org.