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Turlock man killed at Atwater party
Suspect surrenders to investigators
Juan Jose Avina-Meza

A birthday celebration in Atwater that had gone on for about 12 hours ended tragically when a Turlock man was stabbed to death Thursday night by one of the guests, the Atwater Police Department reported.

The deceased was identified by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department as 36-year-old Juan Guizar Villano.

A suspect, identified as Juan Jose Avina-Meza, 40, of Atwater, has been taken into custody and charged with homicide, said Atwater Police Lt. Samuel Joseph.

A second male victim was also stabbed in the altercation and was taken by air ambulance to a Modesto hospital. He is expected to recover from his injuries.

All three men had been guests at a birthday party that started around 4 p.m. July 22 at an Atwater home in the 1500 block of High Street.

Around 4 a.m. July 23, the Atwater Police Department received an emergency call of an assault with a deadly weapon. The caller was frantic and stated two men had just been stabbed, Joseph said.

The first officers arriving at the scene found Villano with multiple stab wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There was a large crowd at the party when officers arrived and “a large quantity of alcohol” had been consumed over the day and night. However, most of the guests were cooperative and were able to provide information that led to Avina-Meza being identified as a person of interest in the case, Joseph said.

Avina-Meza had fled the scene and the Atwater Police Department issued a warrant for his arrest. He came into the department voluntarily and after some questioning was arrested on suspicion of murder.

A knife was recovered at the scene.

The events leading up to the stabbing are unknown at this time, but Joseph said it did not appear to be gang-related and everyone involved was an invited guest.

Avina-Meza is being held at the Merced County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bail.