Some of the homicides in 2006 were the year's biggest stories, like the son who killed his mother before claiming he was possessed by the devil and killing himself in August.

Others appear to have no local connection, like the case of a Van Nuys man whose body was dumped in a field just minutes off of Highway 99 in October.

After rising dramatically between 2004 and 2005, Kern County's homicide numbers were back down in 2006, authorities said. With roughly 69 homicides, the county saw about 10 fewer homicides in 2006 than the previous year.

Typical year for county

The Kern County Sheriff's Department investigated 34 homicides this year, up from 28 in 2005. That small variation is to be expected, Sgt. Wim Leyder said when the department had worked on 32 homicides.

"It's a typical year. It runs in that range," Leyder said.

Leyder warned against reading too much into the number of homicides in any given year.

"There is no correlation between one homicide and another, so all they are is just numbers, so you can't make anything out of it," Leyder said. "I guess people could abstractly say, well society is getting more violent, but that is cyclical. Some years it's up, some years it's down."

Sometimes investigators will be able to tie a rash of gang shootings together and discern a trend, Leyder said, but most other homicides only affect the immediate circle of the involved parties.

City gang shootings down

Gang shootings were down significantly in Bakersfield Police Department territory, which may have contributed to a drop in the number of homicides that agency handled, according to Chief Bill Rector.

The BPD investigated 23 homicides in 2006, down from 31 in 2005. But Rector said lower homicide numbers aren't necessarily a reflection of exceptional police work.

"A lot of homicides are based on impulsive behavior, which we as law enforcement have little control over," Rector said.

What's a homicide?

Law enforcement and the county coroner's office can differ on what they label a homicide. For instance, the BPD does not count the shooting death of Jermaine Dabbs in January in its homicide numbers because Dabbs was shot by Norman Laxson while attempting to rob Laxson's home.

Laxson shot in self-defense, according to the police.

But since homicide is defined as death at the hands of another, despite the legal determination, it is considered a homicide.

For example, fatal officer-involved shootings, even if the officer was justified in shooting, are considered homicides.

It's still too early say exactly how many homicides occurred in 2006, because the coroner's office is still waiting on test results from at least one case. Jacqueline Ortiz was set on fire in June but didn't die until December.

Coroner's investigators have not yet made a ruling on her mode of death.

Plus, a death that was ruled a homicide can be re-evaluated months or years later, changing the totals from years past. In 2005, the death of Karen Garcia was considered a homicide. But after nearly a year of investigation and testing, in November coroner's investigators determined Garcia's death was an accident.

1. Jan. 3: Dale Eugene Hay Jr., 34, was found shot to death inside his Jeep in front of a house in the 5200 block of Kelso Creek Road in Weldon. Sheriff’s investigators said Hay didn’t return home after going to look for a pickup driver who aggressively tailgated his girlfriend. No arrests have been made.

2. Jan. 16: The body of 40-year-old Eric Harold Elser was found lying in the middle of the road on Baron Way in Onyx. Kern County deputies arrested Edward Bullard, 50, on suspicion of shooting Elser. Bullard gave detectives conflicting reports about how the shooting occurred, but he said he and Elser had been drinking at his residence at the time of the incident. Bullard pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

3. Jan. 20: Martin Garcia, 20, was walking with a friend in the 200 block of San Lucas Street in McFarland when a car pulled up and words were exchanged with the occupants. Garcia was shot in the chest and managed to walk to a local store before collapsing. Sheriff’s deputies believe the shooting was gang-related. No arrests have been made.

4. Jan. 21: Kimberly Vellone, 28, died after being shot in the head in the 700 block of A Street in Taft. That same day, Kern County authorities arrested Jason Neal, 23, on suspicion of shooting Vellone. Neal was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 44 years in prison.

5. Jan. 21: Ray Chris Robles, 32, died while in sheriff’s custody of drug intoxication, blunt force trauma, dog bites and prone positioning, the coroner determined. The deputies involved did not face criminal charges and were determined to have acted within federal, state and department policy by an internal review board.

6. Jan. 23: Jermaine Dabbs, 24, was shot and killed in the 9900 block of Kearney Hills Drive in Bakersfield by Norman Laxson while allegedly trying to rob Laxson’s home. Laxson was not charged with a crime. Two others were also sentenced for their roles in the attempted robbery. Jose Covarrubias, who was wounded in the incident, pleaded no contest to attempted first-degree robbery and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Hector Aguirre Jr. also pleaded no contest to attempted first-degree robbery and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

7. Jan. 30: Richard Henry Delomba, 29, was found by a canal just south of Hermosa Road and east of Weedpatch Highway. It appeared Delomba had suffered both gunshot and stab wounds somewhere else and was brought to the canal and dumped. No arrests have been made.

8. Feb. 13: Jordan Matthew Alvarez, 3 months, died of blunt force trauma head injuries in the 800 block of Fairfax Road in Bakersfield. His father, Bobby Forrest was charged with first-degree murder. Forrest is next scheduled for a hearing on April 16.

9. Feb. 16: Stephanie Vaughn, 18, was shot in the head in the 2000 block of Quincy Street in east Bakersfield. Nathaniel Edward Johnson, 18, was initially arrested in connection with the death, but quickly released. No additional arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

10. Feb. 18: Kenneth Dewayne Moses, 30, was stabbed to death in the parking lot of Valley Plaza Mall. Jimmy Robinson and Jennifer Robinson were charged with murder for his death. Jimmy Robinson was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years to life in prison. Jennifer Robinson pleaded no contest to one count of being an accessory and was sentenced to one year in jail.

11. Feb. 18: Perry Quinn Robinson, 15, was shot and killed in the 3900 block of 40th Street in Bakersfield. Robinson had been active in Stop the Violence, a committee formed to fight gang violence. No arrests have been made.

12. Feb. 25: Manuel Morales Abarca, 28, was shot and killed at a house in the 1500 block of Greeley Road owned by well-known auto dealer Jose Arredondo. Arredondo was not at the house at the time. Sheriff’s investigators believe the suspect, Valentine Rosendo Oliva, may have fled to Mexico.

13. March 2: The body of Daryth Erol Fairbank, 35, was found in the desert near California City with a gunshot wound to his head. Lee Wayne Simpson was arrested outside Ukiah two days later. Simpson was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 81 years to life in prison.

14. March 25: Danilo Caraan, 22, died of a gunshot wound to the head he suffered in a drive-by shooting in Delano the day before. Caraan and friend Michael Bowers were in the front yard of a home in the 1600 block of 16th Place when they were both shot. No arrests have been made.

15. March 31: Michael Bowers, 25, died from the wounds he received when he was shot while in the front yard in the 1600 block of 16th Place in Delano on March 24. No arrests have been made.

16. April 22: Esequiel Perez Jr., 28, was the passenger of a vehicle traveling near 12th and Fremont streets in Delano. Someone in a passing vehicle shot at the vehicle Perez was in, killing Perez and injuring the driver. No arrests have been made and Delano police do not believe the death was gang-related.

17. April 23: Wendale Davis, 16, was sitting in a parked car in the 900 block of Bradshaw Street in Bakersfield when someone walked up to him and shot him. No arrests have been made.

18. April 24: Maria Luisa Magana, 53, was shot and killed by her estranged husband, Roberto Barajas Magana, 55, who then turned the gun on himself. Roberto Magana showed up at his wife’s Lamont home in the 9000 block of Maxwell Court and spoke to her briefly before the shooting. He died at the scene and she died at Kern Medical Center.

19. April 27: Jaime Carlos Ortega, 20, died of a shotgun blast to the chest after he and two others were robbed around 9:30 p.m. in the 3000 block of Virginia Avenue in Bakersfield. No arrests have been made.

20. April 30: Cesar David Cera, 34, of Bakersfield, was driving a rented car near Kentucky and Descanso streets at about 3:45 a.m. when he was shot. He managed to drive himself to the nearby Hillcrest Shopping Center, where he struck a pole. He was taken to KMC, where he died. No arrests have been made.

21. April 30: Blake Emery Barnes, 42, was beaten to death by two other inmates while incarcerated at Wasco State Prison. Justine David Cobb and Christopher Jason Bevier were both involved in the fight, prison officials said. Both men have been charged with first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon by a prisoner. Felony arraignments are scheduled for Jan. 10.

22. May 7: Meko Seward, 34, was shot and killed in the parking lot of Rockin’ Rodeo on Rosedale Highway. Police said the shooting was gang-related. John Henry Bryant and Anthony Lee Taylor have been charged with first-degree murder. Readiness hearings are scheduled for March 2.

23. May 15: Paul Wayne Hamp, 48, was killed after suffering blunt force trauma to his head. His home in the 2800 block of Vassar Street and his body were set on fire. Jose Ayala Jr. was charged with first-degree murder, robbery and arson causing great bodily harm. A readiness hearing is scheduled for Feb. 2.

24. May 31: Samuel Felix, 29, was shot and killed in his apartment in the 10700 block of Williams Street in Lamont after a man he was arguing with outside the complex chased Felix back to his apartment. No arrests have been made.

25. June 10: Edward Pedrosa, 24, a stripper, was stabbed to death while performing at a bachelorette party in the the 10800 block of Baron Avenue in Bakersfield. Nicholas Edward Nobella was charged with first-degree murder. A readiness hearing is scheduled for Friday.

26. June 11: Garlund Gabrele Harris, 43, was shot to death at Wayside Park in Bakersfield. No arrests have been made.

27. June 12: Waldo Libertad Rivera, 21, was stabbed near the intersection of Bonita and Habecker roads on June 11 and died of his injuries the next day. Noel Fernando Navarro was charged with first-degree murder in Rivera’s death. A readiness hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19.

28. June 12: William Ellis Wandick Jr., 38, was found shot in his head and chest the 1600 block of Quincy Street in Bakersfield. No arrests have been made, but sheriff’s deputies believe the death was gang-related.

29. June 14: Marcus Dupree Marshall, 21, was shot and killed at an apartment complex in the 700 block of Brundage Lane. No arrests have been made.

30. June 24: Jesus Carlos Arredondo, 22, was shot while in the parking lot of Petsmart on Ming Avenue shortly before midnight. Rene Fuentes, Jesus Zavala and a 17-year-old male were arrested in connection with his death. Fuentes faces charges including first-degree murder; a readiness hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26. Zavala pleaded no contest to being an accessory and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

31. July 4: Martin Cabrera, 30, was found stabbed to death and decomposed in an almond orchard near Sherwood Avenue and Wiley Street in McFarland. No arrests have been made.

32. July 5: Francisco Javier Garcia Robles, 21, was stabbed to death in the 2700 block of Bernard Street in Bakersfield. Elizabeth Torres Fernandez was charged with murder. Her trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

33. July 10: Roberto Martinez, 27, was found shot to death in a bell pepper field off Sycamore Road in Arvin. No arrests have been made, but sheriff’s deputies believe the death was gang-related.

34. July 10: Adam Reyes, 20, was found shot to death in a bell pepper field off Sycamore Road in Arvin. No arrests have been made, but sheriff’s deputies believe the death was gang-related.

35. July 24: Lester James Christy Jr., 34, was shot during a fight in the 6300 block of Tallman Avenue. Stephen Craig Turk has been charged with murder. His trial is set to begin Jan. 16.

36. July 25: Leonard Alexander Martinez, 18, was shot and killed near the intersection of Stine and Planz roads. Two other men were also shot during the incident. The three had been involved in a fight at the Lucky 7 store before the shooting. No arrests have been made.

37. July 29: Wilton Wilson Jr., 42, was shot and killed during an argument in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge on California Avenue. Jaime John Avila III has been charged with murder. His trial is set to begin March 26.

38. Aug. 2: Robert Baldwin, 61, was shot to death in his home in the 7100 block of Drift Creek Street. Items were taken from Baldwin’s home and investigators believe his house was deliberately set on fire. Baldwin also likely had some sort of connection to the people responsible, police have said. No arrests have been made.

39. Aug. 6: Daniel Mathews, 23, was involved in an argument with William Larsen, 37, outside a saloon in Kernville. Larsen hit Mathews while he was distracted. Matthews fell to the ground and hit his head on the cement, according to witnesses. Larsen is charged with second-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 13.

40. Aug. 11: Darion Wheat, 5, of Rosamond, died at a Los Angeles area hospital. His mother, Dionna Williams, had taken him to the hospital the day before, claiming he was injured when she accidentally ran over him with her car. Sheriff’s investigators believe Wheat was beaten to death. Williams was charged with willful cruelty to a child, and her boyfriend, George Tyler, was charged with murder. His preliminary hearing is set for Monday.

41. Aug. 14: Lawerin Michael Edwards, 17, of Long Beach, was shot and killed while standing outside a relative’s house in the 100 block of U Street in Bakersfield. Police believe the shooting was gang-related, though they do not believe Edwards was affiliated with a gang. No arrests have been made.

42. Aug. 15: Jon Roman Summons, 49, was found in the Kern River near Borel Road. Summons was originally believed to be a drowning victim, but an autopsy revealed he died from a shotgun wound to his head. He had been missing for about three weeks. Andrew Quinton Hernandez has been charged with Summons’ murder. Hernandez is scheduled to appear in court for a readiness hearing on April 20.

43. Aug. 16: Daniel Mendez, 20, was shot after an altercation with two men at an apartment complex in the 1000 block of County Line Road in Delano. Delano police have identified a suspect, but no arrests have been made. Investigators believe the death was gang-related.

44. Aug. 19: Michael Darnell Hodges, 22, was shot to death while sitting in a vehicle in the 2700 block of South Real Road. Police believe the shooting was gang-related. Stefan Evans was arrested in connection with the shooting. His trial is set to begin April 16.

45. Aug. 19: Arturo Gomez-Garcia, 35, was found stabbed to death in a grape vineyard near Sycamore Road and Rancho Drive in Arvin. No arrests have been made.

46. Aug. 20: Ismael Licon, 25, was shot to death in the 800 block of Hutson Street in Arvin. No arrests have been made, and Arvin police do not believe the death was gang-related.

47. Aug. 22: Donna DeWitt, 46, was beaten to death by her son, Solon DeWitt, 18, who killed himself a short time later after leaving their home in the 8200 block of Sargent Way. Solon DeWitt notified police of his mother’s death in a 911 call, in which he confessed to the crime, said he was possessed by the devil and told the operator he was going to kill himself.

48. Aug. 26: Randall Lynn Doherty, 49, was found shot to death in a big rig near the intersection of V and 2nd streets. No arrests have been made.

49. Sept. 3: Shavon Darnell Smith, 28, was shot in the head while in the parking lot of a liquor store in the 2600 block of South Chester Avenue. No arrests have been made and police believe the shooting was gang-related.

50. Sept. 21: Leonard Banks, 19, was shot and killed at his home in the 2400 block of Fairview Road by people police believe were there to steal medical marijuana Banks’ father had in the backyard. No arrests have been made.

51. Sept. 21: Dwight Briggs, 47, was stabbed several times in his head and neck at a home in the 1300 block of Murdock Street. The injuries were not life-threatening, but while he was in the hospital he had a stroke and died. His son, Daries Briggs, 28, is facing a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the death. His trial is set to begin Feb. 5.

52. Sept. 23: Miguel Angel Romero, 23, was stabbed to death in the 500 block of Bernard Street after a fight. Carlos Munoz and Javier Rodriguez were arrested in connection with the death but released without being charged pending further investigation.

53. Sept. 27: Pete Cruz, 43, died after a jaw injury he suffered during a fight on Sept. 23 became infected. The fight occurred in the parking lot of a the Teriyaki Bowl restaurant in the 3600 block of Ming Avenue, and Cruz did not seek medical treatment for his injury. The District Attorney’s office did not press charges against the other men involved because they were acting in self-defense, according to the Bakersfield Police Department.

54. Oct. 3: Saul Betancourt, 19, of Van Nuys, was found shot to death in a field on Sandrini Road near Highway 99. The Kern County Sheriff’s Department has referred the case to the Los Angeles Police Department because it appears the incident started there.

55. Oct. 4: Deondrey Shontrel Rush, 27, was shot and killed in the 3600 block of Madison Street. No arrests have been made and police believe the death was gang-related.

56. Oct. 5: Kisasi Baltrip, 34, was shot while driving down First Street in Bakersfield. He continued driving a short distance, but crashed in the 600 block of Brundage Lane. Police believe the shooting was gang-related. Brian Brookfield Jr., Kevin Christopher Dixon, Evan Preston Wells Jr. and Anthony Ford were charged with murder in the death. A preliminary hearing for all four teens is set for Feb. 6.

57. Oct. 17: Thomas Lee Moberly, 35, died after being shot during a fight with his father in the 10900 block of Meacham Road. Robert Moberly was charged with murder in his son’s death. A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10.

58. Oct. 19: Jesse Harkleroad, 21, was killed when two men who demanded the keys to a vehicle opened fire. Three others were wounded in the incident. John Thomas Jr. and Johnte Allen were charged with murder in connection with the death. Preliminary hearings for both men are scheduled for Jan. 26.

59. Oct. 24: Roland Coe, 60, was stabbed to death at the El Don Motel in the 800 block of South Union Avenue. Crystal Eyraud and Eduardo Mil Jr. were charged with murder for his death. A preliminary hearing for both is scheduled for Jan. 18.

60. Oct. 26: Jesus Edmidio Gaona, 53, was found stabbed to death in the 700 block of East Los Angeles Avenue in Shafter. No arrests have been made and Shafter police believe the suspects have fled to Mexico.

61. Nov. 10: Arthur Phillip Ruiz, 60, was shot to death in the 8200 block of Smith Road in Bakersfield. No arrests have been made and sheriff’s deputies do not believe the death was gang-related.

62. Nov. 13: Joseph Angel Delatorre III, 46, was shot and killed outside a restaurant in the 2600 block of Oswell Street. Fred Aaron Alvarez has been charged with murder. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

63. Nov. 19: Edgar Gonzalez, 23, was shot to death in his backyard in the 1100 block of Quincy Street in Delano. No arrests have been made.

64. Dec. 1: Samuel Caleb George, 25, was found shot to death in a dirt field on Breckenridge Road west of Comanche Drive. Eugene Lujan, 19, and Heriberto Valencia, 21, were arrested in connection with the death. Both men are next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 30.

65. Dec. 12: Jacqueline Ortiz, 38, died after being injured when she was set on fire in June. Her cause of death is still pending further testing and investigation. The Kern County coroner’s office has not determined if her death is a homicide. However, her boyfriend, Israel Evaro Jr., is currently facing attempted murder charges in connection with the incident. Evaro was arrested before Ortiz died, and the District Attorney’s office is awaiting the coroner’s ruling before determining if Evaro will be charged with murder. He is next scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 17.

66. Dec. 21: Elizabeth Leon, 22, was found stabbed to death in her home in the 2000 block of Flower Street. She was seven months pregnant at the time. Coroner’s investigators determined that the male fetus could have survived outside Leon’s body and are considering him a second victim. No arrests have been made.

67. Dec. 24: Sigmun Lee, 45, of Las Vegas, was shot to death by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies Sean Pratt and Jason Nelson at a Motel 6 in the 8000 block of East Brundage Lane. The deputies were called to the hotel when Lee was vandalizing a hotel room and had threatened a security guard with a hammer. When deputies arrived, Lee approached them with the hammer in a threatening manner and did not stop when ordered to. Pratt and Nelson were placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a review board, scheduled to meet Thursday.

68. Dec. 31: Juan Manuel Garcia Gallardo, 30, of Arvin, was found stabbed to death in a vineyard near the 7200 block of Redbank Road. Lamont sheriff’s deputies said Gallardo was found by a horseback rider. The investigation is ongoing.

69. Dec. 31: Deon Edward Stephens, 38, was shot near the intersection of Gage and Bernard streets after a fight. He died at Kern Medical Center. Bobby Lynn Hawkins was arrested at the time of the shooting, but on suspicion of drug and child endangerment charges, not for Stephens’ death. The investigation is ongoing.

-- Staff writer Jason Kotowski contributed to this report.

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