For the past five months, Sergio Arredondo has been carrying a huge weight, troubled by the murder of his brother, well-known Bakersfield businessman and car dealer Jose Arredondo.
Losing his brother to a horrific murder in Cabo San Lucas in July was bad enough. Making it worse, he says, is that the wrong man is locked up, accused of murder. That man is Roberto Gonzalez, a longtime friend and golfing partner of Jose Arredondo.
I sat down for an interview with Sergio and two attorneys involved in the case who were recently in Bakersfield.
Three days after his brother Jose was found murdered in his condo in Cabo San Lucas, Sergio Arredondo said, he got a call from Comandante Jose de Jesus Garcia of the State Attorney General's office.
"Garcia told me they were looking for Roberto Gonzalez but couldn't find him," said Arredondo.
Turns out he had Gonzalez's number and Garcia told him to call Gonzalez and for the two of them to meet at the crime scene at 10 a.m. Arredondo adds that when he got to the condominium complex, Gonzalez was already there being interviewed by agents from the State Attorney General's office. Led to believe Gonzalez was a murder suspect, Arredondo said he was bewildered when he saw Gonzalez released. Turning to Garcia, Arredondo asked the comandante why Gonzalez was freed.
"(Garcia's) comment to me was, 'No, they're waiting for him down the street they're going to pick him up. As a matter of fact, he's not even going to get arrested. We're going to pretty much kidnap him, take him. We're going to take him to the desert and he's going to tell us what happened,'" recalled Arredondo.
What? Did I hear him correctly? Kidnap Gonzalez and take him to the desert? To do what exactly?
"(Garcia) said they were going to make him confess," Arredondo said.
The 56-year-old Arredondo said he never gave the comment much thought; he thought it was a joke.
But when Arredondo saw a news story on Telemundo in which Gonzalez testified at a court hearing to being kidnapped and tortured to confess to his brother's murder, he realized it was no joke.
"Describing what they did to him, it went hand in hand to what they told me they were going to do to him," Arredondo said as his eyes started to water. "It created confusion in my mind that he was being framed."
Does he feel he was used by police in Cabo San Lucas?, I asked him. To which he responded, "Yes, I feel that way. My conscience has been bothering me a lot over this." He added he felt he needed to come forward with this story to get it off his chest and set the record straight for the benefit of Gonzalez, who sits in a jail cell awaiting trial. But going to Cabo San Lucas to testify for the defense is another matter, which even the attorney for Gonzalez says is not a good idea.
"I would not call Sergio Arredondo to go to Cabo San Lucas precisely because of his safety," said Jaime Tacher.
Tacher believes that to solve this case, police need to do several things. "Follow the money. You need to follow the money in order to know what's going on here," said the attorney. "In this type of homicide, you have to follow those closest to the victim to figure out a motive."
Jose Arredondo's siblings have hired their own lawyer in Cabo San Lucas to pursue other possibilities as to who would want to kill their brother. Who stands to financially benefit from the death of this successful businessman?
"It seems very strange to us that police have not followed the money trail, which is of huge importance," said attorney Armando Serrano.
"They have not interviewed nor investigated those closest to Jose and the fact they have not looked into Jose's personal life really confounds us because if they look, they will find a lot of relative points," said Serrano.
Looking at how things have played out so far, Sergio Arredondo agrees with the analysis by both attorneys.
"They didn't go to rob my brother, they went to kill him. That's why they need to follow the money," said Arredondo.
Defense attorney Tacher sums up the case this way: "There's an innocent person in jail. There's a family without justice and there are assassins that are free. And the State Attorney General allows it."
The State Attorney General's Office has declined to comment, saying it's prohibited from giving out information about any ongoing investigation.
Roberto Gonzalez is scheduled to go to trial at the end of January or early February.