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Police Call Santa Maria’s First Homicide of 2014 an ‘Isolated Incident’

Santa Mara’s first reported homicide of 2014 apparently is an "isolated incident" that occurred after a fight between the suspect and victim, as detectives work to determine the motive for the slaying.

Officers responding to a report of a fight in the 1000 block of West Orange Street found a man dead inside the residence Saturday night. Police say the victim apparently had been involved in a physical fight with another person inside the residence.

Ismael Jacinto-Cruz, 26, of Santa Maria was arrested on suspicion of murder and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail, police said.

“It’s a pretty clear-cut case,” said Sgt. Paul Van Meel of the Santa Maria Police Department's Detective Bureau.

The victim’s name hasn’t been released, pending notification of next of kin, according to Van Meel.

Both men lived in the same apartment complex, Van Meel added.

Detectives are trying to pinpoint the motive for the crime, saying it’s not believed to be related to gangs or drugs. Alcohol may have been involved.

Officers also are trying to determine the level of friendship between the two men.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s Office is scheduled to conduct an autopsy Tuesday to determine the preliminary cause of death, according to Van Meel.

However, KEYT-KCOY-KKFX reported that the crime didn’t involve a stabbing or shooting, but instead that the victim was struck with some sort of object.

This is the first homicide of 2014 in Santa Maria.

“This is an isolated incident that is not linked or connected with ongoing criminal activity,” Van Meel said.

The Police Department has been aggressively hiring officers with higher standards in the past year, which Van Meel credited with contributing to the lower homicide rate.

“Our numbers have increased significantly in that time span,” Van Meel said of the officers on the force, noting that more officers on the force means more reactive and proactive policing. “Even being proactive that can have better results if you put organized crime folks away.”

This slaying comes nearly a year after the city’s previous homicide, which occurred in September 2013. 

That case began with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office because the body was found Sept. 17, 2013, in a drainage ditch between two fields near Division Street and Bonita School Road in the Nipomo area. 

Using fingerprints received from the Mexican Consulate, authorities identified the victim as Silvestre Montalban Lopez, approximately 26, of Guerrerro, Mexico.

The cause of death was determined to be a homicide.

But the investigation revealed the crime occurred on West Fesler Street in Santa Maria. San Luis Obispo County officials said Dec. 11, 2013, that they had handed the case over to Santa Maria police.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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