FRESNO, CA (KMJ) – The man who had faced a murder charge in the killing of a valley grape grower is found dead.
Kern County Coroner’s Officials say that Mariano Fernandez Perez suffered “traumatic injuries.”
The 24-year-old was found dead around 7:00am Monday morning on Wallace Avenue, South of Highway 155, north of Bakersfield.
His death is now being investigated as a homicide.
In April, the admitted Norteno gang member had been arrested after a traffic stop by Kern County Deputies.
He was charged in the killing on April 11 of 84-year-old Jakov Dulcich of Delano (below right).
Dulcich was the owner of Sunlight International Sales, and founder of Dulcich & Sons, which became internationally known for their “Pretty Lady” table grapes.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office says around 8:30a.m. Wednesday, April 12, Dulcich was killed in a car-to-SUV shooting while driving outside of Delano.
After he was shot, his SUV crashed into another vehicle, a PT Cruiser, at Browning Road and Woollomes Avenue.
A witness to the shooting, inside the PT Cruiser said there was another person in the suspect car, and questions about who carried out Dulcich’s killing were raised at the trial.
In court documents, the witness said that the car stopped at the crash scene and a passenger got out and opened fire on Dulcich, the SUV’s driver, the shooter then said “let me go kill this guy too” and chased the witness.
Court documents show Perez had admitted to being a gang member but denied involvement in the murder.
Perez’s murder trial ended in a hung jury.
Prosecutors dismissed the case in November, pending further investigation.
Click to listen to the report by KMJ’S Liz Kern: