YCSO seeking suspect in murder case
UPDATE - 4:53 P.M. - Yuma County deputies are looking for a suspect in the bludgeoning death of 33-year-old Kendal Smith last week.
The suspect, Manuel Bustamante, is thought to still be in the Yuma area in the company of three to four other males.
"We think he is still running around town and with a group of three to four others who may or may not also be involved in this case," said Capt. Eben Bratcher of the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office. "He knows we are looking for him and he is actively avoiding apprehension."
Bratcher said at about 9:13 p.m. Wednesday, deputies were dispatched to the 2500 block of 15th Place in reference to a disturbance involving six subjects armed with baseball bats.
Deputies were on scene in less than nine minutes, only to find Smith with blunt force trauma to the head. He was taken unconscious to Yuma Regional Medical Center and later transferred to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix.
Bratcher said all of the suspects had fled the scene before deputies arrived. A bloody baseball bat, however, was recovered in the area.
"We suspect the incident was drug-related," Bratcher said.
Smith died Sunday, Bratcher said, as a result of the injuries sustained during the attack.
Bratcher said YCSO didn’t put out a press release initially because it did not want to alert the suspects that deputies were closing in on them. That changed, he said, when the victim died.
During its investigation, Bratcher said, YCSO investigators developed a lead concerning possible suspects in the case and served a search warrant Friday at a residence located at 2776 S. Avenue 2½E.
Two subjects were questioned in reference to the ongoing investigation and taken into custody.
Bratcher said during the service of the warrant, a remote-controlled robot equipped with a camera and stun gun was used. It was damaged, however, by one of the suspects who kicked it as he was being taken from the home.
As the investigation continued, deputies soon identified Bustamante, 30, as a person of interest. On Monday, YCSO investigators served another search warrant, this time at a residence in the 1700 block of West 29th Street.
Bratcher said while two subjects were arrested at that location on felony arrest warrants for unrelated charges, Bustamante was not there and is still at large.
Bustamante is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 185 pounds, with a shaved head.
No one has been charged yet in the murder, Bratcher said.
Anyone with any information about this case or the location of Bustamante is asked to call YCSO at 783-4427, or 78-CRIME to remain anonymous.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.