Home invasion arrests
David Wayne Morrison is taken into custody by deputy Richard Gonzales.
Agencies including the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, police and K-9 units hunted in Turlock for two home invasion robbery suspects Wednesday.
Home invasion arrests
Father, son reflect on ordeal
Chase shuts down two schools
Residents feel relieved at arrest of 10 suspects
Jeff Jardine: Alarm was installed in the nick of time
Home Invasion Arrests Reactions
DEBBIE NODA/THE BEE
By JOHN COT and DARYL FARNSWORTH
BEE STAFF WRITERS
Published: September 11, 2003, 09:49:28 AM PDT
Authorities arrested 10 people after a violent, pre-dawn robbery Wednesday north of Denair, and said evidence links them to a string of 18 other home invasions in Stanislaus and northern Merced counties.
"The reign of terror that has paralyzed our community is over," Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman said. "These suspects are part of a vicious outlaw group."
Four of them allegedly stormed into a home in the Denair area, east of Turlock, about 3 a.m., attacked the family living there, then took off with several pieces of property and some money. The robbers fled in a sedan that had been parked in an orchard, authorities said.
Undercover deputies assigned to a strike team had been watching the suspects for about four weeks and were in the area, Weidman said.
They swooped in after the dispatch center relayed word of a panic alarm going off at the house at Roeding and Swanson roads. Deputies saw the suspects leaving the area and followed them.
Officers tried to stop the suspects' car near Keyes and Geer roads, Weidman said, but the car sped through the intersection.
The suspects' car continued into south Turlock, stopping a block from Wakefield Elementary School, and they scattered into the neighborhood.
At least two of them, one with a handgun and the other a shotgun, fired several times at deputies, the sheriff said. Officers returned fire with high-powered rifles. No one was wounded.
One shot from one of the suspects' guns shattered the windshield of an undercover car, with the slug going over deputy Marc Nuno's head, Weidman said.
"Praise God for looking over our officers today," Weidman said.
Sheriff's investigators praised people who came forward with information that helped identify some of the suspects and pro- vided leads in the crime spree that had spread fear in rural territory around Turlock, Denair, Keyes, Modesto and Ceres, and in northern Merced County since January.
And, despite the arrests, investigators urged continued caution. "Don't let your guard down," said deputy Tom Letras, a Sheriff's Department spokesman.
5 caught after chase
Authorities identified the suspects who fled Wednesday morning's Denair robbery as David Michael Silva Sr., 54, of Hilmar and son David Anthony Silva Jr., 29, of Riverbank; Anthony Lawrence Martinez, 22, of Turlock; David Wayne Morrison, 20, of Delhi; and the driver, Darlene Fouse, 29, of Modesto.
All were booked at county jail for investigation of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, home invasion robbery, conspiracy and being a member of a criminal street gang, Weidman said.
Five more arrests came in the afternoon and evening: Virginia Elizabeth Ellsworth-Dudek, 24, of Hilmar; Jeanette Anna Rodriguez, 27, of Delhi; and Gwen Katrina Gregg, 26, Mario Hernandez, 22, and Dale Shamblin, 41, all of Turlock.
Authorities said they charged Ellsworth-Dudek as an acces- sory to attempted murder and home invasion, and Rodriguez as an accessory to home invasion.
Gregg was taken into custody on an unrelated auto theft charge, Hernandez on an un-related drug warrant and Sham-blin on a parole violation, the Sheriff's Department reported.
Investigators said a search of Shamblin's home turned up property from at least one previous home invasion, and he could face additional charges.
The car chase ended at Angelus and Spruce streets in Turlock, and the five suspects jumped out and ran.
Officers caught Fouse and Silva Jr. almost immediately, while the others fled into the early morning darkness.
A short time later, deputies found Silva Sr. in a shed in a nearby back yard. An hour after that, they found Martinez in another back yard.
Deputies arrested the last of the five about 1:30 p.m., Weidman said, finding Morrison hiding at Hernandez's house in the 500 block of South Avenue.
Deputies find 3 guns
Authorities said they scoured the yards near Wakefield School and found two handguns and a shotgun.
"We're all relieved now that there have been arrests made," Sheriff's Department spokesman Kelly Huston said. "The strike team has been working around the clock on this case for the past month."
The surveillance team saw the suspects visit several homes in the Denair area late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
Officials said deputies had to keep their distance -- about 400 yards -- to keep from being detected in the countryside. As a result, they did not know immediately that the robbers had struck Wednesday morning, until getting word from the dispatch center.
The shootout in south Turlock left neighbors shaken.
Three bullets struck 67-year-old Ruben Gutierrez's Spruce Street home as he lay sleeping with his wife. Another lodged into the side of his blue Dodge sedan.
Gutierrez said he and his wife were shaken but uninjured.
"It's a bad area," he said, pointing to the shattered glass in a guest bedroom's sliding door.
Gutierrez's next-door neighbor, Michael Garcia, 59, said multiple gunshots roused him about 5 a.m. and he rushed to his front window.
"I saw an officer behind my pickup telling a suspect to get on the ground," Garcia said. "It took a little bit, but the suspect complied."
Authorities cordoned off a roughly eight-square-block area as the sheriff's Special Weapons and Tactics team and canine units conducted yard-to-yard searches for Morrison and Martinez.
Officers from six law enforcement agencies from Modesto to Merced helped in the search as a Stanislaus County sheriff's helicopter and California Highway Patrol airplane alternately circled overhead.
Wakefield and Cunningham elementary schools closed for the day. Roughly 1,800 students stayed home or were directed to nearby Osborn School to be supervised until family could pick them up.
Ana Santana, 35, said she enrolled her 9-year-old daughter at Osborn because she felt it was safer than Wakefield, about three blocks away.
Wednesday, she kept her child home. She wanted her close to home, a few yards from a command post for Wednesday morning's search.
"It's not safe down there," she said, gesturing toward Wakefield. "It's only this year. Years before it's been calm, but not now."
Residents pleased, wary
Brian Osborn, who lives outside Keyes and said he knew victims of three home invasions, drove to the Turlock search area hoping for a degree of resolution.
"I feel better but I'm not assured yet," Osborn said after officers put Martinez in the back of a patrol car. "A lot of us in the country would like to take retribution on them. This has wrecked people's lives."
Wednesday night, more than 100 people turned out for a previously scheduled meeting at Turlock Covenant Church to talk with law enforcement officials involved in the case.
The crowd applauded when sheriff's Cmdr. Raul DeLeon described the arrests, but some audience members said they were concerned about slow response time to rural crimes in general.
Some said they worried that the 10 people arrested Wednesday would get out on bail, but DeLeon said his department would urge that a judge set "a very high bail."
Richard Dopkins of Modesto said the Sheriff's Department was too slow to publicize the home invasions in the early stages of the spree.
He noted that the arrests happened in part because Wednesday morning's victims learned of more recent robberies and installed an alarm.
"Now how many families would have been saved if the Sheriff's Department came out earlier with this?" Dopkins asked.
Bee staff writer John Cot can be reached at 578-2394 or [email protected]
Bee staff writer Daryl Farnsworth can be reached at 578-2337 or [email protected]
Bee staff writers Mike Conway and John Holland contributed to this report.
Copyright 2003 The Modesto Bee.