Last Thursday, July 29, Laura Arredondo and her family celebrated the birthday of her late brother, Bakersfield businessman and car dealership owner Jose Arredondo, who was brutally murdered two years ago in Cabo San Lucas. He would have been 63 years old. His lifeless body was found in his condo the morning of July 16.
"The 16th was difficult, but I don't observe so much the day he died. I was feeling sentimental that day," said Laura, who is Jose's younger sister. Though Jose was murdered two years ago, it feels like it happened just yesterday, she said.
The murder investigation has gone pretty much nowhere, and in fact may already have been compromised by authorities in Cabo San Lucas. Just a few days after Arredondo's death, police announced they had their man, arresting Roberto Gonzalez, a friend and golfing buddy of Arredondo. Gonzalez was promptly charged with murder. But then a slew of things happened that unraveled the case, including charges of kidnapping and torture of several people in an apparent attempt to get them to implicate Gonzalez as Arredondo's killer.
A judge ultimately ruled that all evidence gathered by police was obtained illicitly and or improperly. There were serious flaws in how police collected and stored bloodstains allegedly found in Gonzalez's vehicle that matched the murder victim. The prosecution's star witness, a 17-year-old security guard who police said had witnessed Gonzalez enter and leave Arredondo's condo the night before Arredondo's body was found, testified he was beaten and intimated by police and forced to sign a false statement. Ultimately, the State Attorney General's office conceded it had no sufficient evidence and released Gonzalez. And what's happened since?
"Absolutely nothing!" said Laura Arredondo. "They haven't told us a thing."
Laura and her brothers never bought the idea that Gonzalez was the man behind the murder, but rather was a convenient scapegoat.
Her brother was a U.S. citizen. Hoping to get some help, the family contacted local Rep. Kevin McCarthy's office to see if he could get the FBI to look into the case.
"Supposedly someone from the FBI went to Cabo San Lucas to ask police there about the case," said Laura. "They went to ask the very same people involved in Jose's murder!"
Laura believes there were multiple people from all levels involved in her brother's death.
"You know what police in Cabo told the FBI? They said Jose was mixed up with the mafia, the cartels and that's why they believe he was killed," said Laura. "Aside from the fact that they stole his life, now they paint him as some corrupt person!"
I contacted McCarthy's office about this and received this response by email: “What happened to Jose Arredondo is a tragedy. My office has provided and is still providing assistance to members of the Arredondo family in this matter.”
Still, processing his death remains difficult for Laura. She dreams of her brother around once a month. He is laughing, smiling. She yells out to him, asking: What happened?
He replies for her to be calm and relaxed, saying everything is going to be fine. Her daughter prays at her uncle's gravesite, asking him to send them a sign in helping to find his killers.
"This murder was planned and it involves a lot of people," said Laura. "One of them is going to talk sooner or later."
For now, the family carries on the charitable work that Jose Arredondo was fond of doing. With school about to start, the family is busy organizing events at their car dealerships to give away hundreds of backpacks with school supplies to students in Fresno, Delano and Porterville. It's about keeping Jose's legacy alive.
I've been following this tragic event since it happened two years ago and have tried repeatedly to get answers from authorities handling the case in Cabo San Lucas. To date, I received one reply stating that the prosecutor's office does not comment on investigations. But that was when the suspect, Roberto Gonzalez, was in custody. Since his release, there's been no response at all.
Makes you wonder: Who was behind this murder? And why?
While hope of solving this case remains bleak for now, Laura cannot accept that.
"If those involved in his death think they are going to live well or be well-off, they are greatly mistaken," she said.