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Turlock man gets 51 years to life in prison for murder and arson
Ricardo Rios
Ricardo Rios

A Turlock man who stabbed his neighbor more than 100 times and left his body in an orchard outside of town before torching his vehicle is headed to prison for 51 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder.

Ricardo Rios, 37, of Turlock was previously found guilty of first-degree murder and arson for the death of Pedro Solis Ruiz, 53, of Turlock on Nov. 12, 2016.

After being charged with Ruiz’s murder, Rios had entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The same Stanislaus County jury that found him guilty also found he was sane at the time of the murder.

The last time Ruiz was seen alive he had agreed to give Rios, his neighbor, a ride. The day Ruiz agreed to give Rios a ride, Rios was concealing two or three knives. At some point between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Rios stabbed Ruiz in the face and then continued to attack him, according to the court records.

Rios pushed Ruiz into the passenger seat and drove the SUV to an orchard in the 400 block of N. Gratton Road. He dragged Ruiz’s body deep into the orchard and left it there.

Rios then drove the SUV to the 400 block of Bennington Avenue, where he gathered leaves and papers and lit them on fire inside the front part of the SUV.

Believing the fire would destroy any evidence, Rios left the area. He walked home, took a shower and put his bloody clothes into a plastic bag and hid them in his closet, according to the district attorney’s office.

The burning SUV was noticed by a Good Samaritan, who doused the flames with a fire extinguisher. The Turlock Fire Department responded to the scene and firefighters were the first to notice a large amount of blood inside the SUV.

Turlock Police detectives responded, photographed, documented the scene, and collected evidence. They found a bloody knife on the passenger side floorboard. Detectives responded to the victim’s apartment to check on his wellbeing. While at Ruiz’s apartment complex they learned about contact between Rios and Ruiz and they went to Rios’ apartment to check on him.

The detectives discovered Rios hiding in a closet. A Turlock Police officer also found the victim’s cell phone and cell phone case, including license, in Rios bedroom closet. Rios was interviewed by a Turlock Police detective and denied knowing the whereabouts of Ruiz. He was subsequently released.

The next morning a resident who lived near the orchard found the victim’s body and notified the police. Detectives secured the scene and collected and documented evidence.

The detectives went to arrest Rios at his apartment complex and found him hiding on scaffolding along one of the buildings of the complex. He was interviewed a second time and denied having anything to do with the death of Ruiz.

Detectives located the plastic bag with defendant’s bloody clothes from Rios apartment. His shirt was later tested for DNA and the blood on the shirt was a match to the victim’s DNA.

The bloody knife found in the partially burnt SUV was also tested and the blood on the knife was a match to the victim and DNA on the handle of the knife was a match to Rios.

Rios was interviewed a third time by Turlock Detective Frank Navarro and was confronted with the mounting evidence against him. He initially denied, but eventually admitted that he stabbed Ruiz, left his body in the orchard, drove the SUV to a different location, and set it on fire.

Rios claimed a combination of self-defense and mental health issues. He was charged with premediated murder along with an enhancement for personally using a knife, arson, and with having previously been convicted of first-degree residential burglary as a serious felony and a “Strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law.

On Aug. 7, a bifurcated jury trial on the guilt phase commenced. After approximately two weeks of evidence, a Stanislaus County jury convicted Rios of premeditated murder with personal use of a knife, and arson.

After the conviction at the guilt phase, the trial then proceeded to the issue of Rios’ sanity at the time of the crime. The jury heard evidence from two court appointed psychologists who evaluated Rios over two years after the murder. One gave the opinion that Rios was sane when he murdered Ruiz and set his SUV on fire, while the other gave the opinion that the defendant was insane at the time. After hearing the expert testimony and deliberating on the evidence, the jury found Rios was sane at the time he committed the crimes.

It was also found true that Rios had been previously convicted of first-degree burglary.