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Homicides up in Turlock for 2016
homicides pic
An officer involved shooting during a narcotics investigation that left one person dead in a parking lot at 2323 W. Main Street was Turlock's fourth homicide of 2016. Turlock had seven total homicides in 2016. - photo by Journal file photo

The passing of 2016 closed the books on a year that saw a sharp increase in the number of homicides in Turlock.

For 2016, Turlock recorded seven homicides, up from the two reported in 2015 and the four that occurred in 2014.

Of the seven homicides, four resulted in the arrests of suspects, all of whom are awaiting their trials. One homicide was an officer-involved shooting and another was a suspected burglar shot by a homeowner. One homicide had no suspect information.

For all of Stanislaus County there were 36 homicides in 2016, which is down 22 percent from the previous year.

The first homicide Turlock recorded in 2016 was that of Eva Gallardo, 44, who was killed March 27. Arrested for her death was Maribel Gonzalez, 41.

The stabbing that caused Gallardo’s fatal injuries happened in the 700 block of W. Olive Avenue and began when Gallardo and her 26-year-old daughter were confronted by Gonzalez about a missing cell phone, according to the Turlock Police Department.

At some point the confrontation took a violent turn when Gonzalez allegedly produced a knife and stabbed the two women.

A witness to the attack followed Gonzalez and led Turlock Police officers to her location in the 600 block of Columbia Street. She was arrested without incident and the knife used in the attack was recovered.

Gallardo was hospitalized and died two days later. Her daughter recovered from her injuries.

Gonzalez is currently in custody and awaiting trial on a charge of murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Almost a month later Turlock investigators were called to the scene of the city’s second homicide. On April 23, Falane Jones, 37, was gunned down while visiting family at an apartment complex in the 300 block of W. Hawkeye Avenue. Jones was with his uncle in the parking lot of the apartment complex when a black car pulled in and the driver opened fire at Jones.

Jones was struck four times in the face, chest and neck. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Arrested for Jones’ murder was Devenae Price, 25, of Ceres. Kevin Barnes, 19, is charged with being accessory in the murder. Two women were also charged as accessories in Jones’ murder, but charges were dropped against them. In December a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ordered Price and Barnes stand trial for Jones’ death.

A motive in the shooting has never been determined.

The third homicide recorded in Turlock was an incident of suspected road rage, according to the police department. Detectives suspect Paris Roberts Jr., 20, of Keyes gunned down Pablo Vargas, 34, of Keyes after the two were involved in some sort of traffic incident on May 21.

The first officers to arrive at the scene in the 4500 block of N. Golden State Boulevard found Vargas lying on the roadway with a gunshot wound. Vargas was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he later died from the gunshot wound.

A witness to the shooting told the officers there had been some sort of altercation that appeared to be an incident of road rage. The witness also was able to provide officers with a description of the vehicle the suspect had used to flee the scene. The vehicle and Roberts were found a short time later and he was taken into custody during a high risk stop.

Roberts remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail is scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 27.

The fourth homicide in the city was an officer-involved shooting during a drug bust that resulted in the death of Omar Villagomez, 21, of Orosi on June 7.

The incident began when agents from the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to arrest Villagomez and his passenger Juan Bulgara, 27, of Farmersville in the parking lot at 2323 W. Main Street. The parking lot is home to the Turlock Regal Theatre, the Turlock Poker Room, Starbucks and other eateries and retail businesses. The arrest was for methamphetamine possession with the intent to sell.

During the attempted arrest, Villagomez drove the Ford pickup he was driving into some of the unmarked undercover police vehicles. The officers fired at Villagomez, resulting in his fatality.

Bulgara was injured from debris in the collision.

The fatal shots were fired by two Modesto Police officers, whose names have not been released.

The city’s fifth homicide was the first in which a suspect was not identified and taken into custody. On June 16, Miguel VillalPando, 21, of Livingston was fatally shot. VillalPando was on the sidewalk next to Foster Farms’ turkey plant in the 500 block of West F Street when he was shot in the head.

The police department said the suspect fled the area in a vehicle, but no descriptions were available. No weapon was recovered at the scene.

 VillalPando had started working at the plant just two days prior to his death.

The sixth homicide to be recorded in Turlock was the death of Juy Anthony Gastelo, 30, of Turlock. According to the police department Gastelo was shot while trying to burglarize a Turlock residence.

The shooting happened around 1 p.m. Oct. 31 at a home in the 300 block of N. Thor Street.

The first officers at the scene found a man with life-threatening gunshot injuries. Officers performed CPR on Gastelo until medical personnel arrived and rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Turlock Police Lt. Stephen Webb said the initial investigation indicates Gastelo had broken into the home and was then confronted by the armed homeowner who shot him.

The homeowner has not been identified and no charges have resulted from the incident.

The final homicide to occur in Turlock last year was the stabbing death of Pedro Ruiz, 53, of Turlock on Nov. 12.

For the police department the incident began shortly after 8 p.m. Nov. 12, with a report of a vehicle on fire in the 400 block of Bennington Avenue. The Turlock Fire Department responded to the vehicle fire, along with police officers. Once the fire was extinguished a large pool of blood was discovered in the vehicle.

Ruiz’s body was later found in an orchard in the 400 block of N. Gratton Road in an unincorporated area of Stanislaus County. Ruiz had sustained multiple stab wounds and was pronounced dead.

At some point in the investigation detectives identified Ricardo Rios as a person of interest in the case and obtained a search warrant for his residence in Turlock. At the home detectives found property belonging to Ruiz. Rios was arrested and charged with homicide and arson. Rios remains in custody and has a pretrial hearing set for Jan. 30.