Court hearing set for Jan. 18 for charges related to death of Tehachapi resident
BY CLAUDIA ELLIOTT
Alberta Newspaper Group
The suspect in the death of a 78-year-old Tehachapi man who died Dec. 6 remains in jail in Bakersfield and has been charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and elder abuse. The victim, Gilberto Sanchez, and the suspect, Juan Palos, reportedly lived near each other in Tehachapi’s Ashe Village neighborhood. In a statement released Jan. 5, Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger said that at about 11 a.m. Dec. 5, officers from the Tehachapi Police Department responded to a report of a neighbor dispute in the 49500 block of Brett Avenue. Upon arrival, officers found a 78-year-old man unconscious on the driveway. Several people at the location were involved or had witnessed the dispute, Kroeger said. The victim was taken to Kern Medical with unknown injuries. It was determined the victim had suffered significant head trauma and he was pronounced dead on Dec. 6, the chief said. “Detectives conducted an extensive investigation of the incident and determined the victim had been struck in the head area during the altercation, causing him to fall to the ground,” Kroeger said. “The investigation determined that Juan Palos, 31, of Tehachapi was responsible for the assault causing the death of the elderly victim,” he noted. Kroeger said detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Palos and with the assistance of San Bernardino Fugitive Task Force, Palos was taken into custody in Indio on Dec. 16. Court records show Palos was arraigned on Dec. 20 and is being held without bail. He is scheduled for a hearing in Kern County Superior Court in Bakersfield at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 18. Sanchez, who went by the nickname Beto, lived in Tehachapi more than 40 years, according to an obituary notice provided by his family. “He was the life of the party and the light of his family. He was drastically removed from our lives too soon,” the obituary noted, adding that Sanchez dedicated his entire life to working in Tehachapi’s apple orchards. “Gilberto will be deeply missed by his family and friends and all who knew him. His greatest pride was his family.” Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Virginia Garcia, his five children — Jesus, Raul, Candelaria, Celia and Nereida — as well as 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Court records show that Palos has been arrested numerous times since he was about 19. He was sentenced to two years in state prison in connection with an arrest made March 28, 2012, when officers from the Kern Narcotics Enforcement Team, assisted by officers from the California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team, executed a search warrant at 49504 Alan Ave., Tehachapi. According to a news release issued by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office at the time, during that investigation officers seized approximately three ounces of crystal methamphetamine, two sawed-off shotguns, two handguns, one rifle, $5,650 in U.S. currency, and additional evidence of narcotics sales. The crystal methamphetamine has a street value of $6,720, the KSCO said. His arrest then was on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sales, transportation of methamphetamine, concealing evidence, possession of an illegal weapon, and criminal participation in a street gang. Palos had been released from prison by Sept. 3, 2013, when he was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and for violation of his post-release supervision. Court records show the assault charge was dismissed. He pleaded guilty to the post-release supervision violation and was given a 180-day jail sentence. Most recently, court records show, he was sentenced to 180 days in jail on Nov. 3 in connection with an arrest on Aug. 9. It is not clear from online court records how much of that sentence he actually served. The charges in that case, to which he entered a no-contest plea, were for vandalism less than $400 and obstructing/resisting a peace officer. Other vehicle code and drug charges from the same arrest were dismissed.