Merced murder suspect was soaking wet
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A murder victim's family is in mourning this holiday season.
But for the first time, they're also hearing how police tracked down the man accused of killing their brother.
A Merced County judge decided Monday that there's enough evidence to put Michael Wilkins on trial on charges he broke into an apartment and killed the caretaker to a disabled man back in August.
As Merced police shut down the Creekside apartment complex searching for a murderer, a gang officer noticed something strange emerging from Bear Creek, just a couple hundred yards away.
"When we turned on H Street., that's when we saw a black male adult with dreadlock-style hairdo," said Merced police officer Joseph Perez. "He didn't have any pants on or a shirt and he was holding wet clothing and shoes in his hands."
This is how Michael Wilkins looked back in August after police let him dry off and booked him into the jail.
Judge Ronald Hansen wouldn't let us show you the witnesses or how Wilkins looked at his court hearing Monday.
But the dreads are gone and his defense attorney believes witnesses may have trouble identifying Wilkins, even though at least four people saw some portion of the crime.
Detectives say someone saw Wilkins approaching the apartment where Raymond Garza lived as the caretaker to a disabled man.
A couple people heard gunshots, and then one man saw a man running away from the Creekside apartments to the creek itself, where police later found Wilkins.
"[The witness] said he saw the suspect trying to jump a canal, a small canal, and he said he saw he didn't believe he made it," said Merced police officer Chris Russell.
Witnesses said the suspect was covered in blood and while booking Wilkins, police may have found their strongest evidence in the case.
"While I was taking photographs of him, I noticed there were particles of what seemed to be blood and I took samples of that," said Merced police officer Joseph Deliman.
Raymond Garza left behind not only the disabled man he cared for, but nine brothers and sisters who are feeling the emotions of his death all over again as they face the holidays without him for the first time.
"I just miss him a lot and I wish he was here with us, but unfortunately, I lost my little brother," said Raymond Garza.
Wilkins is only 20, but he has a history of police contact, including an assault with a deadly weapon arrest in Santa Cruz when he was 18.
He's due back in court in December.
merced, merced county, crimetracker, court, murder, homicide, local, corin hoggard
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