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Suspect's sister arrested in baseball bat killing case
The sister of a Yuma man suspected of beating another man to death with a baseball bat earlier this month is now also in trouble with the law.
Blanca Bustamante, 21, was arrested Thursday by the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office on a felony charge of hindering prosecution.
Her brother, Manuel Bustamante, 30, as well as Jonathan Roger Ochoa, 27, are wanted in the April 18 bludgeoning death of 33-year-old Kendal Smith. She was arrested at her home in the 600 block of Country Club Lane in Yuma after deputies developed a lead concerning the possible location of the suspects.
Capt. Eben Bratcher, a spokesman for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, said that Blanca Bustamante had been helping her brother avoid arrest by letting hide out at her home.
Bratcher also said that the car Manuel Bustamante was driving Wednesday night when he was spotted by deputies in the area of Avenue B and Yowell Court belonged to her.
“The car he ran from us in belonged to her,” Bratcher said. “Providing him with a vehicle is certainly assisting.”
The vehicle was found abandoned in the 2800 block of West 4th Street. Sheriff’s deputies, Yuma Police officers, and Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents searched the area. Tracking dogs from the Arizona Department of Corrections and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter also assisted. After nearly four hours, the search was called off.
Blanca Bustamante made her initial appearance in Yuma Justice Court on Friday afternoon before Justice of the Peace Gregory Stewart, who set her bond at $150,000 as requested by prosecutor Levi Gunderson.
Stewart also informed Blanca Bustamante that her next court appearance would be on Tuesday, at which time she would be informed if a criminal complaint had been filed against her.
Although Manuel Bustamante and Ochoa both remain at large, deputies believe they are still in the Yuma area and actively avoiding apprehension.
Manuel Bustamante is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 185 pounds, with a shaved head. Ochoa, is described as 5 feet 10 inches and 170 pounds.
On April 18, at about 9:13 p.m. deputies were dispatched to the 2500 block of 15th Place in reference to a disturbance involving six subjects armed with baseball bats.
Deputies arrived 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, where he died.
All of the suspects had fled the scene before deputies arrived. A bloody baseball bat was recovered in the area. The incident is believed to be drug related.
Anyone with any information concerning this case or the location of Bustamante or Ochoa is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office 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.