The Atwater man who was found dead inside a pickup in rural Stanislaus County on Tuesday had just started his shift at a cattle transportation company when he was shot.
Miguel Angel Celestino-Garcia, 30, began work at Direct Dairy Transport in Hilmar at 2:30 a.m., according to his wife, Blanca Castro. He got into a pickup and drove west on August Road toward a dairy to pick up cattle.
At about 3 a.m. the California Highway Patrol was dispatched to a report of a pickup in a ditch on the side of the road. When officers arrived they found Celestino-Garcia dead from at least one gunshot wound.
The father of two had been working for Direct Dairy Transport since July and had previously worked at dairies caring for the cattle, Castro said.
She said Celestino-Garcia, who was born in Mexico, achieved permanent residency last year and was going to school to become a truck driver.
“He was excited about earning more and being able to buy a house,” she said. “Those dreams will never come true.”
She said their 5-year-old daughter doesn’t know how to respond to her father’s death and their 3-year-old son doesn’t understand it.
In addition to his wife and children, Celestino-Garcia is survived by his parents and sisters who live in Mexico.
Castro said they are all trying to get emergency visas to attend his funeral but it’s likely only his father will be able to because he is the only one with a passport.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the killing, has not released any new details about the crime including a possible motive.
Celestino-Garcia’s family has established a GoFundMe account to raise money for funeral expenses and help get family here from Mexico. To donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/nan2f-funeral-and-memorial.
Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call sheriff’s Detective David Hickman or Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tips also can be submitted via www.stancrimetips.org.