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A man charged in a double homicide from last year was arraigned in court on Tuesday.

Louie Ricardo Perez, 45, pleaded not guilty in the June 2018 deaths of Samuel Atkinson and Vincent Paul Valdez, according to court records. A pre-preliminary hearing has been set for May 9.

The bodies of Atkinson and Valdez were found on June 13 at around 5:33 a.m. in a grape vineyard near Arvin by Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies, according to court documents. They were bound and beaten on the head with a blunt object, their throats were cut and the bodies were set on fire, according to court documents.

A few days later, a vehicle belonging to one of the victims was found. Inside, there was a “badly dented” baseball bat with blood on it, court documents say. Perez was charged with the deaths earlier this year after DNA was found on the bat linking him to the crime.

Another man is also wanted in connection with the double homicide. The Kern County Sheriff's Office said it is looking for 29-year-old Edward Diaz. 

Diaz is described as a Hispanic man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 240 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 861-3110.

Prior cases

Prior to the two new charges, Perez had been charged in connection with other murder cases, according to Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

Perez was initially arrested on Dec. 5 in connection with the death of 37-year-old Victor Velasquez on Dec. 4., the DA’s Office said. Velasquez was found in the bathtub of his southwest Bakersfield residence.

Police said it seemed as if there was an attempt to decapitate Velasquez, according to court documents.

Then, additional murder charges were filed on Feb. 21 in connection with the Oct. 4 shooting deaths of Celenna Sanchez and Jessie James John.

An additional suspect, 36-year-old Daniel Animas, was also arrested last year on murder charges in connection with the homicides of Velasquez, Sanchez and John. He was arraigned in February.

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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