A man believed to be responsible for two separate shooting deaths late last year in northeast Modesto, including one that ended the life of a 5-year-old, was arrested in Santa Cruz on Friday night.
Robert Davis, 21, of Riverbank, was taken into custody at a motel by members of the Santa Cruz Police Department. Two others, who Modesto Police Department detectives believe were his accomplices in the shootings, were arrested in Modesto.
Xavier Smith, 5, was shot dead in an apparent drive-by shooting on Lake Park Court just east of Lakewood Avenue on Oct. 28. Another boy, a 6-year-old, also was shot but survived his injuries.
On Nov. 21, Cody Lea, 21, was shot and killed near Ustach Park in Village I.
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Davis is the suspected shooter in both incidents, which appear to be drug-related, according to Heather Graves, spokesperson for MPD.
She said Davis was arrested at a Santa Cruz motel on a warrant. His residence in Riverbank was searched early Saturday morning by officers of the department's SWAT team, who began serving search warrants at separate locations at 2 a.m.
Davis' two alleged accomplices were identified as Ryan DeSousa, 20, of Modesto, and David Wilmore Jr., 21, of Modesto.
DeSousa, who detectives believe was the driver in the shooting on Lake Park Court, was arrested Friday night. His Modesto residence was searched early Saturday morning.
Graves said Wilmore was arrested after a search warrant was served at his residence on Black Walnut Drive, a few blocks southwest of Orchard Park in Village I.
She declined to divulge Wilmore's suspected role in Lea's death.
Reached by phone Saturday morning, Michael Lea, Cody Lea's father, said he was informed of the arrest of Davis last night by Modesto police.
"There's a sense of relief," he said. "I hope they serve justice."
Also reached Saturday was Xavier Smith's mother, Tiffany Moun: "I'm happy we have justice for my son, but I really haven't gotten the complete story. My baby was innocent but no matter what nothing will bring him back."
DeSousa and Wilmore were booked into Stanislaus County Jail on murder charges.
Graves said Davis is in custody in Santa Cruz and at some point will be extradited and returned to Stanislaus County.
She would not say why Davis was in Santa Cruz or how detectives knew of his whereabouts.
"Detectives have worked tirelessly over the last several months to bring justice to the families of these two young victims," said Sgt. Steve Hinkley of MPD's Violent Crimes Unit.
Hinkley credited the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office, Homeland Security and the residents who offered tips.
Earlier this week on a Facebook post, Modesto police sent out surveillance video showing the moments after the shooting on Lake Park Court. Curiously included in the post was a reference to the shooting death of Lea.
Graves said she could not say how detectives connected the two cases to Davis. But, she said the use of social media helped in the investigation.
"Things on social media get people talking," she said. "Tips come in. They did not break the case, but they certainly helped solidify the information (detectives) already had.
In the drive-by on Lake Park Court, Davis allegedly shot at several residences. The house where the boys were playing outside was described as an "unintended target," Graves said.
Xavier, the boy who died, was a kindergartner at Christine Sipherd Elementary School. He was a member of the Central Valley Jets youth football team and was hoping one day to play in the NFL.
The shooting occurred about 9:45 p.m. on a Saturday night as a couple of groups of people gathered outside homes on the 1400 block of Lake Park Court. The neighborhood is made up of a cluster of small duplex homes down the street from a gated apartment complex.
Meanwhile, Lea, a 2014 graduate of Enochs High School, was shot at about 8:40 p.m. on a Tuesday night. He was found down on the street on Hillglen Avenue just west of Bear Cub Lane.
Two months later, residents of the middle-class neighborhood and surrounding areas held an organized meeting with representatives of the Modesto City Council and the Modesto Police Department. There was concern among residents about both the fatal shooting and overall crime around the park, which sits next to Elizabeth Ustach Middle School on nearby Kodiak Drive.
Among those in attendance at the meeting were Police Chief Galen Carroll and Lea's mom and dad.
Michael Lea said he did not know what this son was doing at the park on the night of the murder.
"(Cody) was easygoing and the most kindhearted person you'd know," he said. "The only thing he had to say was kind stuff. No racism. No negativity. He was always willing to help solve other people's problems."
Detectives are still working on the investigation and ask anyone with information on either cases to call Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. The callers can remain anonymous.