Hector DeLaCruz

GUSTINE - A worker on a dairy south of Gustine was killed during an early-morning robbery Monday, April 20, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office.

The homicide was the second early-morning robbery of Gustine area dairy workers in less than a week’s time.

Later Monday, authorities reported, Hector DeLaCruz, 30, of Gustine, was taken into custody on multiple felony charges related to the robbery of two workers at a separate dairy in the Gustine area early Wednesday morning, April 15.

Deputy Daryl Allen, public information officer for the sheriff’s department, told Mattos Newspapers that authorities believe the two cases are connected and said DeLaCruz is considered a suspect in the homicide as well. Allen said the homicide investigation is ongoing and that detectives are waiting for evidence to be processed.

Allen said the homicide occurred on a dairy in the 10000 block of South Ingomar Avenue.

He said the victim, who was not identified by authorities prior to publication deadline, was working alone in a milk barn when killed. Allen said a co-worker heard yelling from inside the barn, and upon entering the building found the victim deceased.

The homicide occurred at approximately 1:13 a.m., according to a sheriff’s department Facebook post.

Allen said that leads from both cases took detectives to an address in the 1200 block of Southport Way in Gustine, where DeLaCruz was taken into custody for the April 15 robbery of two workers at a dairy in the area of the 26000 block of Fahey Road. In that incident, authorities reported, the workers were assaulted with a handgun and robbed at gunpoint.

According to a Merced County jail website, DeLaCruz was being held on felony charges that include robbery, mayhem, being a felon in possession of a firearm and attempted murder.

Those charges, Allen reiterated, all stem from the April 15 case.

Authorities declined to divulge additional details surrounding the homicide due to the ongoing investigation.

Allen also urged dairy workers to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.