Man who had faced murder charge in killing of Delano grape grower was found dead a year ago today

Crime Watch
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Mariano Perez covering his face while in court in 2018.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been a year since Mariano Perez — who had faced a murder charge in the killing of Delano grape grower Jakov Dulcich — was himself found dead.

The body of Perez, 24, was found Dec. 3, 2018, with “traumatic injuries” on Wallace Avenue south of Highway 155.

A month earlier, prosecutors dismissed charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an occupied motor vehicle that had been filed against him in connection with Dulcich’s death. His trial had ended in a hung jury.

Dulcich, 84, was shot dead the morning of April 11, 2018, on Browning Road. A witness told investigators he saw an SUV and a car trying to hit each other as they traveled on Browning.

The witness pulled over and the SUV crashed into his PT Cruiser.

The car stopped, and a passenger got out and opened fire on Dulcich, the SUV’s driver, the witness told investigators. The shooter then chased the witness, pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger at point blank range — but the gun didn’t fire.

The witness said he fought the gunman before managing to get away, and the shooter returned to the car and sped off.

Authorities later found a vehicle similar to the description of the suspect vehicle burning near the county line. The car was determined to be registered to Perez’s mother, according to court documents.

The witness told investigators Perez was the person who most looked like the shooter out of several photographs he was shown, documents said.

At trial, however, the witness testified Perez was not the gunman.

Both Dulcich’s and Perez’s killings remain unsolved.

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