Merced slaying suspect nabbed in Stockton on Texas-bound bus

STOCKTON -- A suspect wanted in a New Year's Day slaying in Merced was on a Texas-bound bus when arrested Thursday at the Greyhound station here.

Christopher Marenco was tracked down by the Merced Police Department's Gang Violence Suppression Unit and arrested about 9:30 a.m., Merced police Sgt. Scott Skinner said. Merced investigators made the arrest with help from the Stockton Police Department.

Investigators believe Marenco shot Rudolfo "Rudy" Hernandez, 27, during a small gathering at a home at 1630 Yosemite Park Way at 2:01 a.m. Tuesday. Skinner said police are trying to determine the motive behind the slaying, though they have found that Marenco is the brother of a woman Hernandez was dating at the time of his death.

According to police, Marenco is a documented member of a Norteño street gang, while Hernandez, a former Norteño member, had dropped out of gang life. Police said Wednesday that a dispute between the two men led to the shooting.

Marenco's arrest comes on the heels of Tuesday's arrest of 24-year-old Gilbert Ruiz during a traffic stop near 11th and R streets. Police believe Ruiz drove Marenco away after the shooting.

With Marenco and Ruiz in custody, police said they hope to gain a clearer picture of the events that led up to the shooting. Police would not say how they tracked Marenco down or why he was in Stockton, but said they were not surprised he seemed to be skipping town.

"We knew there were some indicators that he was seeking to leave our state and jurisdiction," said Merced police Lt. Bimley West. "Hopefully, he will open up and give us the information that we are looking for."

Skinner said Marenco was seated on the Texas-bound bus when members of the Gang Violence Suppression Unit took him into custody.

"Obviously, (Marenco) is a danger to the community and any community that he is in," said Merced Detective Chris Russell, the primary investigator on the case. "He is just a dangerous person altogether."

Victim was getting life on track

On New Year's morning, police arrived at the home at 2:01 after receiving a call of shots fired. Inside, police found Hernandez unconscious with a single gunshot wound to his torso. Before the shooting, West said, Hernandez was celebrating with a small group of people inside the single-family home. After he was shot, he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he later died.

Although Hernandez had a checkered past -- he'd been arrested on suspicion of minor narcotics violations and domestic issues -- friends and family members insisted that he was getting his life back on track. He was a father of two, had been out of prison for about six months and was attending classes at Merced College to become an auto mechanic, according to Jesse Coombs, a childhood friend.

Skinner said investigators do not have any information indicating Hernandez still was involved in gang life.

"Looking at his background, it did appear that he had tried to disassociate himself from the gang," Skinner said. "But, unfortunately, when you get into that gang lifestyle, it is always with you. It follows you for the rest of your life -- and that's why gang prevention is so (important) right now, because it is a hard lifestyle to get out of."

Ruiz was booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of being an accessory. He is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. West said gang enhancements likely will be added because Ruiz is a documented gang member.