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Merced Sheriffs probe into Winton death nets nine arrests
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A Merced County Sheriff’s investigation into a Winton slaying has resulted in the arrest of nine suspected gang members, including a 19-year-old Turlock woman.

The arrests were linked to the homicide investigation of Francisco Pena, 33, which occurred Dec. 23, 2013. Pena was shot numerous times in a shared backyard of several apartments and died at the scene. Evidence collected indicated Pena was shot with large caliber rifle rounds and other firearms.

The sheriff’s department’s Major Crimes Unit were tasked with investigating the murder.

The sheriff’s department found Pena was a member of a criminal street gang operating out of Winton. Investigators suspect Pena was killed by members of his own gang in a power struggle and that they were the ones who lured him to the backyard.

“The suspected gang members laid in wait for Francisco and then shot him to death,” said sheriff spokesman Deputy Delray Shelton.

Investigators have identified and taken into custody four people suspected of carrying out the ambush murder. Arrested were: Elias Vera, 18, of Winton; Fernando Luna, 21, of Winton, Julian Luna, 24, of Winton and Ricardo Romo Jr., 17, of Atwater. Rome is being charged as an adult. All four are being charged with murder and gang enhancements, the sheriff’s department reported.

Three of the four suspects had left the area and were apprehended with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Office, the Fremont Police Department and the Redding Police Department.

Five other suspected gang members were taken into custody on a variety of charges during the course of the investigation. Arrested were: Alejandro Fierro, 31, of Winton on weapon and drug charges; and Orasio Fierro, 22, of Winton on weapon and drug charges. Charges are pending for: Jose Vera, 19, of Winton for accessory after the fact for the murder and a gang enhancement; Alma Marmolejo, 19, of Turlock for drug charges; Jessie Saucedo, 32, of Winton for weapon charges and a gang enhancement; and Jorge Saucedo, 29, of Winton for weapon charges and a gang enhancement.

Detectives also recovered assault rifles, machine pistols and other guns during the course of the investigation that will be processed to see if the firearms are linked to any open criminal investigations, Shelton said.