Woodlake murder suspect still at large
tulare county – A Woodlake man once thought to be a victim of a shooting is now being hunted as a primary suspect in a three-year-old homicide. Martin Saldana, 22, of Woodlake has been able to avoid capture since he was released from the hospital for a gunshot wound suffered on Feb. 2, 2013 in Woodlake.
The shooting happened at 12:35 a.m. in the 300 block of E. Antelope St. Woodlake Police officers arrived and found Richard Zepeda, 21, of Woodlake lying near the back fence of a residence. While there, officers noticed someone walking in a nearby alleyway behind Miller Brown (City) Park in Woodlake. The passerby, later identified as Saldana, who was 18 years old at the time, had also been shot in the chest.
Both men were immediately treated by paramedics and transported to nearby hospitals for their injuries. Zepeda later died from his injuries. Despite being able to identify both men as rival gang members, no weapons were recovered at the scene and police were unable to substantiate how Saldana had sustained his gunshot wound. After being treated and released at the hospital, Saldana was released and went into hiding.
Officers later learned that Saldana and his accomplice, 18-year-old Bobby Baker of Woodlake, went up to the fence surrounding the backyard, where Zepeda was visiting a friend’s house, and the two gang members shot over it multiple times into a crowd of five people. Zepeda was the only one in the group to be struck by a bullet.
The owner of the house shot back at the two gang associates. Baker’s accomplice was also shot by the return fire. The two ran away down an alley until Saldana faltered, forcing Barker to stop and call 911 for medical aid. Baker then fled just as help was arriving. Two weeks prior to the murder of Zepeda, Baker had threatened one of the residents of the home where the murder occurred.
In December 2014, a jury convicted Baker of one count of second degree murder, and one count of criminal gang conspiracy. The jury also found true the special allegations that a principal in the crime of murder discharged a firearm causing death, and that the crime was for the benefit of, or in association with, a criminal street gang.
Saldana, who is now a suspect in the murder of Zepeda, is still at large and is considered dangerous. He is among the Tulare County Sheriff’s Top 10 Criminals in Hiding, a list created by Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in October 2015 along with the CATTCH Unit. CATTCH, or County Apprehension Team Tracking Criminals in Hiding, is a specialty unit that specifically investigates and tracks Tulare County’s most dangerous criminals.
The idea is to identify people who are hiding from law enforcement and devote the resources to track them down.
To view the current list, go to www.tularecounty.ca.gov/sheriff/ and click on the icon for Tulare County Sheriff’s Top 10 Criminals in Hiding, on the right hand side of the screen underneath the Sheriff’s Message.