Ceres police ID people of interest in fatal shooting

July 19, 2007 

Ceres police have interviewed more than 30 witnesses in connection with the shooting death less than two weeks ago of Michael Ilttreb, officials said.

They have identified people of interest, said Ceres Detective Sgt. Jeff Higginbotham, though police declined to release suspect information.

Ilttreb recently had turned 18. The Keyes teenager was shot while at a party July 8; authorities have released few details about the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Ilttreb's brother, Jesus Lopez, 28, said his family is reeling from the loss; his mother cries every day, he said, and he has taken time off from his job in Fresno to be with her. This week, the family has been trying to select Ilttreb's headstone.

The man's friends have continued to visit the home where Ilttreb lived to offer support, Lopez said.

"The word on the street is that everyone, most of the people at the party in Ceres, they pretty much know who did it," Lopez said. "If everyone on the street knows who it is, then police know who it is. So it's probably just a matter of time until an arrest."

Lopez said he's been told by his brother's friends who were at the party that Ilttreb was not in the group that was the target of the shooting.

"Our understanding is that it was an accident," he said. "They told us Michael was behind the yard trying to get away from all the shots."

Police are trying to determine whether Ilttreb was a bystander, Higginbotham said.

"We do know that he was shot in the face," he said.

Another person at the party was injured in a fight close to the time of the shooting, Higginbotham said, though police have not confirmed that the incidents are related.

Department of Justice forensic examiners are testing two firearms Ceres police seized after the shooting.

Higginbotham said he was "very confident" police would resolve the investigation.

Ilttreb's funeral services were held Friday. He was buried at Ceres Memorial Park.

Ilttreb's childhood friend Miriam Hernandez wrote in an e-mail that she hadn't believed Ilttreb had been shot until she saw a story about it in the newspaper.

She remembered Ilttreb hanging out with friends in front of their junior high school library, always smiling and never getting in trouble.

"It's hard to lose a good friend," she wrote. "He's not my first friend that I lost. … But only God knows why. It's so hard to say goodbye though."

Ceres police ask anyone with information about this homicide to call Detective Trenton Johnson at 538-5727 or Detective Sgt. Jeff Higginbotham at 538-5625. Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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