A defendant accused of murder appeared in court Friday for the first time since his arrest after authorities found the body of a missing Modesto man buried in a shallow grave near his rural home west of Modesto.
Mario Amado Beltran, 28, pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and denied an enhancement that alleges he fired a gun during the homicide.
Authorities believe Beltran is responsible for the shooting death of Ricky Cadruvi, 58, who was reported missing Christmas Day.
Modesto police said the body was unearthed near Beltran’s home on Broyles Road, just north of Paradise Road.
Sgt. Ivan Valencia said investigators still are trying to determine a motive and how Cadruvi knew Beltran. They are looking for anyone who knows of Cadruvi’s whereabouts in the days leading up to his disappearance.
Cadruvi’s mother, Earleen Cadruvi, said her son moved often throughout his life but came home two years ago to help care for his ailing father and elderly grandfather.
“He was a lost soul in many ways; he had done a lot of hitchhiking,” Earleen Cadruvi said. “I love him very much, and his brothers love him very much and his nieces and nephews love him.”
Earleen Cadruvi said her husband died almost a year ago to the day that her son’s body was discovered.
She didn’t want details released about the ongoing investigation into her son’s slaying, although Valencia said detectives are not looking for other suspects, just witnesses.
“(Ricky Cadruvi) was going to church with me and singing in the choir; I thought he was doing so well,” Earleen Cadruvi said. “He was kind of a loner in many ways and yet he had some friends; the friends he got involved with the last few months have not been good.”
Beltran entered a Stanislaus County courtroom Friday afternoon wearing a red-and-white-striped jail inmate jumpsuit with shackles on his wrists and ankles. He appeared in court with Deputy Public Defender Donnell Snipes.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito asked the judge to set Beltran’s bail at $3 million: $2 million for the murder charge and $1 million for the gun enhancement. He said that is the typical amount for such a charge.
The prosecutor also told the judge that authorities found Ricky Cadruvi’s body near Beltran’s home, and they found Beltran with Cadruvi’s vehicle.
Snipes argued that he didn’t have all the details of the alleged crime, but the prosecutor’s request for bail seemed like a high amount. “Just because he was found with the vehicle doesn’t mean he committed this crime,” Snipes told the judge.
Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden set Beltran’s bail at $3 million, telling Snipes he can ask for a bail reduction at the next hearing when he has more details about the case. The judge scheduled Beltran to return to court April 22 for a pretrial hearing.
The defendant remained in custody at the Stanislaus County jail on Friday evening.
A search warrant was served in connection with the missing person case at a home at Amador Avenue and Eureka Street in south Modesto. Valencia said drugs were found at the home but no one was arrested.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Modesto Police Department at (209) 572-9500 and ask for Detective Craig Grogan, or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters may also text information to Crime Stoppers at 274637, including “TIP704” with the message.