Crime

Nipomo man arrested, brother on the run in Santa Maria homicide investigation

Officers descended on a Nipomo home Tuesday morning to arrest two brothers suspected in a homicide in Santa Maria early Saturday.

One of the brothers was arrested, while the other — also identified as a suspect in three more homicides — was not found at the house and “is currently on the run,” the Santa Maria Police Department said in a news release.

Police served search and arrest warrants at a home in the 400 block of Orchard Road near Division Street, according to the release.

One of the men, 27-year-old Franklin Edgar Lopez, was arrested in connection with the Saturday killing of Cruz Alberto Chavez Sandoval, 49, of Santa Maria, police said. The other man, 23-year-old Rafael Santiago Lopez, was not found at the house and “is currently on the run,” police said.

Rafael Lopez is a suspect in the Saturday homicide as well as three other shooting deaths in Santa Maria in recent years, police said.

Lopez is suspected in the double homicide of Ramiro Ceja Gonzalez and Manuel Manzano Mata in the area of East Jewel Street and Vine Street on Dec. 26, 2015 and the death of Bernardino DeJesus in the 400 block of North Oakley Avenue on July 4, 2016, police said.

No suspect was immediately identified in those three killings until Tuesday.

Officers and crime scene investigators were at the house for several hours. The Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s offices assisted in the investigation, as well as the Santa Maria Police Department’s SWAT team, according to the release.

The Nipomo home is in rural San Luis Obispo County and outside the normal jurisdiction for Santa Maria police.

Police do not believe the killings were related to gang activity.

“We don’t know the motive,” Santa Maria Police Lt. Paul Van Meel said.

The investigations are ongoing and police ask anyone with information to call the Santa Maria Police Department’s detective bureau at 805-928-3781 x2278 or call the Santa Maria Police Department’s tip line at 805-928-3781 x2677.

Correction: The photo caption has been updated to reflect that Franklin Edgar Lopez was the brother arrested.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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