Buy Photo

Contributed photo

John Holguin Espinoza, 88, was found dead in his vehicle in a canal more than a year ago. John Galafate, 49, has been charged with his murder.

A Delano man police said was missing since noon Wednesday was found dead in the trunk of his car in a canal Thursday evening.

The Kern County coroner’s office said 88-year-old John Holguin Espinoza was discovered at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in a canal at 9th Avenue and Hronis Street. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of Espinoza’s death and police are investigating the case as a homicide.

Police said a 911 call came in Thursday evening that there was a car in the Friant-Kern Canal. California Highway Patrol officers responded and determined the car was the one that Espinoza — who had been reported missing by family members — had been using.

The car was pulled from the canal and officers discovered the body when they popped the trunk, police said. No motive is known and no suspects have been identified.

The caller who first reported the vehicle stayed at the scene and was interviewed by authorities.

Espinoza was last seen at his residence at noon on Wednesday and was on his way to the 1000 block of Dover Place. Longtime friend Jose Luis Navarro, 43, said Espinoza spent his entire life in Delano.

“He was a good person,” Navarro said. “Everybody here knew him.”

Anyone who saw any vehicles or people near the area of the canal where the car was found is asked to call Delano police at 721-3356.