BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The first four months of 2023 began and ended in bloodshed.
The new year began with a killing on Jan. 1 and with less than a half hour left of the period, deputies got a call about a quadruple homicide on April 30.
In all, there were at least 36 homicides in Kern County for the first four months of 2023.
That number can change if undetermined causes of death are ruled to be homicides or if people injured during the period succumb to their injuries.
Bakersfield police responded to Superior Grocers on Union Avenue for a report of an assault on Jan.1, 2023. Officers found an injured man. He was taken to Kern Medical where he was pronounced dead hours later.
The man was later identified as Juan Carlos Urvina, 54.
A homicide is when the coroner rules a person’s death happened at the hands of another. Homicide includes murder and a justifiable act of self-defense and even, law enforcement shooting and killing a suspect.
The youngest 2023 victim so far is a 16-year-old from Wasco, shot near a park on Cedar Avenue on Jan. 19. The victim, later identified as Adrian Esparza, was taken to a hospital where he died on Jan. 21.
The oldest 2023 victim so far is an 81-year-old from Lake Isabella, whose cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the sheriff’s office. The man — identified as Richard Allen Walsh — was killed by his 32-year-old son, Sean Patrick Walsh. Sean then took his own life.
WHERE HOMICIDES HAPPENED
Data from KGET’s Homicide Tracker in 2023 shows Bakersfield’s 93307 ZIP code has the most homicides so far. The data shows eight confirmed homicides happened in this area and seven of those were shootings. One of the seven shootings was a fatal shooting in which officers shot Guillermo Padron Huerta, 35.
The data from KGET’s Homicide Tracker shows shootings are by far the most common type of homicide in the county, with 28 of the 31 confirmed homicides as shootings and two of them in which law enforcement shot alleged suspects.
The agencies involved in the fatal officer-involved shootings are the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.
Sheriff’s deputies in the Ridgecrest area assisted the Ridgecrest Police Department in a call regarding a suicidal man, who was armed with a firearm on Jan. 3. It is not clear what happened before the shooting but the man, later identified as Kenneth Dexter Watkins, 46, was taken to the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital where he died.
The second deadly officer-involved shooting happened on White Lane in south Bakersfield on March 18. In this shooting, officers responded to reports of a man with a knife in a parking lot. The man led officers on a foot chase and an assisting officer shot the man, who was later identified as Guillermo Padron Huerta, 53. He was taken to a local hospital where he died.
An investigation showed the item, which was believed to be a knife was actually a screwdriver.
The remaining homicides in the Kern area were stabbings, assaults, strangulation and several are still pending review by the coroner’s office.
The homicides that are pending review and one determined as strangulation happened at two prisons in northern Kern County.
According to KGET’s Homicide Tracker on May 1, 2022, the county saw 36 homicides and in 2021 at the same point, the county saw 44 confirmed homicides.
Regardless of the year, cause of death, or situation, homicide victims have stories and we want to share them. Let us know if you have a loved one killed in a Kern County homicide and we will tell their story.
To contact us call 661-283-1717 or email HomicideTracker@kget.com.