The 16-year-old’s body was found crumpled away from home, along with her dead 10-month-old son. It was clear to investigators who arrived on the scene in the early hours of Monday morning that the young mother had tried to flee with the baby in her arms. But forensic evidence showed that she had been caught before she could escape, and both she and her son were shot in the forehead from above, execution style.
Four other people, including a grandmother sleeping in her bed, were murdered with similar cold professionalism in the rampage at a family compound in the farming town of Goshen.
Speaking to reporters just hours after his deputies responded to the violent scene, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux characterized the massacre as a targeted attack by an unspecified drug cartel. “The drug cartel”, in his words. What else could explain the depravity of executing a baby?
Twenty-four hours later, at a news conference on Tuesday, in which he identified the six victims and implored the public to come forward with information, the sheriff slightly modified that statement. “I’m not saying this is a cartel,” he said. “But I am not ruling out that possibility.”
In this dusty, impoverished suburb of the San Joaquin Valley, and far beyond, many were left considering the same possibilities when dealing with whoever would commit such a heinous crime.
Boudreaux said investigators were looking for at least two shooters. The victims, many of whom were relatives and aged between 62 and 10 months, were shot in the head and “in places where a sniper would know a quick death” would happen. “Going in and slaughtering an entire family goes above and beyond,” he said. “That’s why I continue to focus on high-level gang-style or cartel-style execution, because that’s not normal.”
Standing behind the sheriff as he spoke were agents from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI. — just a few of the many agencies the sheriff said stepped in to help Tulare County investigators solve the crime.
The sheriff said at least three people survived the rampage, which began when burglars forced open the door of a home on Harvest Avenue, a residential pocket of homes surrounded by chain-link fences in a mostly industrial area bordering State Route 99. A man in the main house hid by lying on the floor of a room while two women were in a trailer where the gunmen could not find them.
Survivors, the sheriff said, are “providing a lot of information,” although he declined to reveal it. “I know a lot, but I can’t answer that question,” he said at one point, adding that the perpetrators may have been watching his press conference.
The sheriff said his deputies arrived at the compound just seven minutes after the first 911 call, but the gunmen were long gone.
Boudreaux appealed for the public’s help in the investigation, asking neighbors, business owners and anyone in the area of the shooting to check the Monday morning video footage and share anything suspicious with authorities. Authorities announced a $10,000 reward for information that would help move the investigation forward.
“We’re pulling out all the stops, turning over all the rocks,” he said.
The sheriff also noted that the property where the massacre took place was a “house known to our department” for gang activity.
He said officers found guns, marijuana and methamphetamine in the home on Jan. 3 following a parole check.
They arrested one of the victims of the massacre, Eladio Parraz Jr. after that search, but said they did not believe his search was related to the violence, nor that Parraz, 52, was the intended target. They declined to say whether they believed they knew who the target was.
In court records filed with the parole check, officers describe Eladio Parraz Jr. as a “documented member of the Sureño gang”. The Sureños are a group of loosely connected gangs who answer to the Mexican Mafia prison gang. He was detained on suspicion of being a criminal in possession of ammunition after officers found live shells and shells from a shotgun and semi-automatic handgun on the ground, and was released a few days later.
But the sheriff said many of the people killed on the property had no gang affiliation. He named Rosa Parraz, the 72-year-old grandmother killed in his bed, along with Elyssa Parraz, 16, the young mother, and her 10-month-old baby, Nycholas, as “innocent victims”.
Other victims identified on Tuesday were Marcos Parraz, 19, and Jennifer Analla, 50. Analla was the girlfriend of one of the survivors, Boudreaux said. (Authorities on Monday shared the incorrect ages of Elyssa Parraz and her baby.)
“I can’t understand,” Elyssa Parraz’s grandfather told ABC 30 News. “I can’t understand who can just kill a baby like that. I can’t wrap my head around this. How can someone be a monster and do that?”
The murders have shocked the sleepy town of Goshen, a predominantly Latino community of about 5,000 people. out of Visalia, and brought a wave of fear to the area. Since at least the 1970s, Tulare County has played an outsized role in the transnational drug trade between Mexican and US markets, which has repeatedly brought violence to Central Valley County.
As news of the massacre absorbed, a palpable air of apprehension seemed to descend over the neighborhood where the violence took place. On three occasions, residents approached a Times reporter in the area, asking him to remove their unknown car from near their homes. All declined to be identified, although one explained that he didn’t want a local gang to think they had spoken to the police.
Three Tulare County Sheriff’s cars were parked in the middle of Harvest Avenue Tuesday morning, which remained blocked between Ivy Road and Highway 68.
Mike Alrahimi, owner of a warehouse near the site of Monday’s shooting, said he was horrified by the violence.
Alrahimi said he didn’t know the family but figured they must have been in his shop at some point. Nothing this violent has happened in the neighborhood in the 39 years he has lived in the area.
“I feel bad for the family, for the neighborhood,” said Alrahimi, 65. “Everyone is sad.”
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