3 missing persons laid to rest after arrest
Police find human remains on man’s past and present properties in Visalia, Squaw Valley
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
FRESNO – The Visalia Police Department played a role in helping catch its second serial killer in as many years.
On July 31, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office announced they had arrested 33-year-old Buford King of Squaw Valley for the murder of three missing men, including one from Visalia. Earlier that day, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office filed three counts of murder against King who is accused of killing 35-year-old Aleksey Shelest and 62-year-old Donnie Lee, both of Squaw Valley, as well as 51-year-old Alberto Contreras of Visalia. His bail is set at $3 million. King meets the criteria of a serial killer, which the FBI defines as someone who murders two or more people in separate events.
Alberto Contreras was last seen in January 2011 and was reported missing to the Visalia Police Department in July 2011. Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar, who joined Fresno County Undersheriff Steve Wilkins at a press conference at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office headquarters, said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Contreras at the time of his disappearance.
“We feel we have the person responsible for these deaths in custody and he won’t be getting out anytime soon,” Undersheriff Wilkins said.
During its three-year investigation into the Squaw Valley murders, Wilkins said the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office became aware that Contreras was also an acquaintance of King. Salazar said the Visalia Police Department learned that King lived in the 16000 block of Avenue 264 in Visalia from 2009 until just after Contreras was reported missing in 2011.
On April 27, 2019 work crews found human remains at the property southeast of Visalia and at King’s current address in the 37000 block of Squaw Valley Road. Another set of bones were found buried on the Squaw Valley property a month earlier.
“All of the remains were submitted to the California Department of Justice for DNA analysis,” Wilkins said. “The results showed positive identifications for Alberto Contreras, Donnie Lee and Aleksey Shelest.”
Shelest was last heard from on May 18, 2016 when he was in Squaw Valley. He was reported missing to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office on May 29, 2016. Lee was last seen Nov. 1, 2016 in the area of Squaw Valley Road and Sand Creek Road in Squaw Valley. He was reported missing to the Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 22, 2016. Shelest and Lee’s disappearances were later determined to be suspicious, so sheriff’s homicide detectives took over both missing persons cases in 2016.
Wilkins said a break in the case came on Aug. 20, 2017, when the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a man who had been shot in the foot. Deputies responded and determined King was responsible for the shooting that took place in the area of Squaw Valley Road and Sand Creek Road. The two men knew each other. The victim was in the area doing construction work at the time he was shot.
On Aug. 24, 2017, the Fresno County’s SWAT Team, homicide detectives, and members of the Fresno Sheriff and Clovis Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams went to King’s home after it was learned that King may be in possession of explosives. The SWAT team was able to get King to come out of his home willingly and they took him into custody. Deputies found chemicals commonly used for making explosives and the bomb squads safely collected and disposed of the materials. King was an Army veteran who has served in Iraq. Detectives also considered King to be a person of interest in the disappearance of Lee and Shelest, so they also looked for evidence tied to that investigation, but nothing was found.
King was bailed out of jail for the shooting and possessing explosive materials on Jan. 13, 2018 but a judge remanded him into custody on Feb. 20, 2019 where he has been held ever since. Wilkins did not rule out the possibility that King could be linked to additional killings in the future.
This remains an ongoing investigation. Anyone with additional information about Buford King is asked to please contact Detective Jose Diaz at 559-600-8204 or Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867, www.valleycrimestoppers.org. You will remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.