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Another held in baseball bat murder; 3 still sought
The U.S. Marshals Service has arrested another suspect wanted in connection with the bludgeoning death of a Yuma man last month.
According to YCSO spokesman Capt. Eben Bratcher, YCSO investigators and U.S. marshals had been searching for Ruben Ornelas, 33, of Yuma, as a person of interest in the April 18 murder of 33-year-old Kendal Smith.
Ornelas, who was interviewed by YCSO investigators after his arrest Monday at 2:30 p.m., was booked into the Yuma County jail on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and robbery.
“He was part of the group that was involved in the initial assault,” Bratcher said.
Bratcher said as a result of the continuing investigation into the murder, two additional suspects have been identified as persons of interest.
He said investigators and U.S. marshals are looking for Reva Renee Jackson, 35, of Yuma. Jackson is described as a 5 feet 2 inches tall woman, weighing 150 pounds, with long dark hair and a medium complexion.
Also being sought is Jose Fabela Campos, 23, of Yuma. Campos is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 pounds, with short dark hair, a goatee and a mustache.
“Every time we make an arrest, another piece of the puzzle falls into place,” Bratcher said. “We aren't done yet, but we are getting close.”
Two other suspects in the baseball bat beating death, Jonathon Roger Ochoa and Elsey Valenzuela, have already been charged in the murder. Ochoa, 27, has been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit possession of a narcotic drug for sale – heroin, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and resisting arrest.
Valenzuela has been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit possession of a narcotic drug for sale – heroin, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, transfer of a narcotic drug and hindering prosecution.
Another suspect, Manuel Bustamante, remains at large, but deputies believe he may have fled to Mexico. Bustamante, who is Valenzuela's boyfriend, is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 185 pounds, with a shaved head.
“We are working closely with Mexican authorities, and we will get him.” Bratcher said.
Bustamante's sister, Blanca, has also been charged with one count of hindering prosecution
Ornelas, who wore green jail clothes with his hands shackled in front of him, made his initial appearance in Yuma Justice court Tuesday afternoon before Justice of the Peace Greg Stewart, who informed him of the charges against him.
Stewart explained to Ornelas that he would return to court Thursday, at which time he would be told if a criminal complaint had been filed against him charging him with any or all of the offenses.
“It is at that time I will know if a formal complaint has been brought against you,” Stewart said. “If one has, I will review it with you.”
As he did with other defendants in the case, Stewart addressed the court on a possible matter of conflict of interest. He explained that one of the murdered man's relatives was an employee of the Justice Center, the building where the courtrooms are located.
However, since felony cases have a limited number of hearings in Justice Court, Stewart said he did not believe it was necessary for his court to recuse itself. He added, however, that if a criminal complaint is filed, an outside judge would be asked to preside over them while they are adjudicated in the Yuma court system.
Prosecutor Levi Gunderson of the Yuma County Attorney's Office asked Stewart to set Ornelas' bond as a $1 million cash bond, to which the judge agreed. Gunderson requested the bond based on the nature of the crime and the high bond amount that had been set for the other defendants arrested in the case.
At about 9:13 p.m. on April 18, 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, where he died.
All of the suspects had fled the scene before deputies arrived. A bloody baseball bat, however, was recovered in the area.
Bratcher said what deputies have learned through their investigation is that prior to the murder, two people allegedly stole some drugs from Valenzuela.
Valenzuela told her boyfriend, Bustamante, about what happened and he, along with Ochoa, Ornelas and possibly three others allegedly went to the residence in the 2500 block of 15th Place, where they thought they would find the people who had stolen the drugs.
Once there, they were confronted by Smith, who was then allegedly bludgeoned to death.
“He was not who they were looking for,” Bratcher said.
Anyone with any information concerning this case or the location of Bustamante, Jackson or Campos is asked to contact the sheriff's office at 783-4427, or 78-CRIME to remain anonymous.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.