ONTARIO — After more than three months, a man wanted for a murder on the Fourth of July in Ontario is now in custody.
According to Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe, law enforcement and court officials have “always known who our guy was,” adding that he was indicted on July 22. However Goldthorpe, and previously Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero, stated that the name was not publicly released sooner in order to protect the safety of both officers and witnesses.
Suspect Jesus Jesse Solorio, 32, of Ontario, was arrested in Fruitland on Tuesday night by law enforcement officials in Idaho. This happened during a traffic stop, according to Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. He said Solorio was the passenger in the vehicle being driven by a woman whose name isn’t being released at this time, but who is also potentially facing criminal charges for “basically harboring a fugitive.”
OPD had also sought out assistance from the U.S. Marshals, who were trying to help locate Solorio.
During multiple check-ups on the case, Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero previously stated that OPD Detectives — BJ Snyder, who was the assistant and Ben Esplin, who was the lead — were “superstars doing phenomenal work,” adding that they were assisted by members of the Malheur County Major Crimes Task Force, who also were “exceptional.” The detectives did “great solid investigative work that led to the ability to file a criminal case,” Romero stated.
He reiterated this on Wednesday.
Goldthorpe confirmed Wednesday that Solorio was arrested in Fruitland on Tuesday night and is being held in the Payette County Jail. Solorio was set be arraigned on a warrant for the July 4 crime at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Following that, the extradition process to get him to Vale for court proceedings in Malheur County will begin. It will then be up to Solorio if he wants to challenge the extradition, Goldthorpe explained.
According to a Payette County Magistrate Court Official, Solorio did waive his rights to extradition on the fugitive of Idaho warrant. However, he remains in the Payette County Jail, on a $5,000 bond. The extradition won’t be scheduled until after all Idaho charges have been dismissed, resolved, Solorio has posted bond, or has been released on his own recognizance.
Once Solorio gets to Malheur County, the arraignment process for the homicide case will begin.
In July, a grand jury returned an indictment on two felony charges which Solorio will face: murder in the second degree, a Measure 11 crime which carries a mandatory minimum sentence, and criminal conspiracy, a class A felony.
Prior to Solorio’s arrest on Tuesday night, Romero, whose last day is this month, told members of the Ontario City Council that the Fourth of July homicide was solved. He said they had a suspect they were still seeking and that he had enlisted the help of a federal agency to begin a nationwide search to find that person.
Solorio is accused of murdering Jerry Gomez, 36, who died of a gunshot wound after a bullet struck him in the torso.
Romero told the newspaper in early July that police suspected the death to be “gang related.” During a phone interview today, he said that is still believed to be the case.
“We believe, while the actual murder motive may not necessarily have been a gang matter, the associates, history and background of these individuals leads us to believe that there is some gang nexus to this crime,” the chief said. “Whether that be that they are gang members, which makes it a gang issued, doesn’t mean the motive had to be gang-driven.”
Police initially believed the crime occurred somewhere else, with Gomez driving to where his body was found, evidence later pointed to the crime having happened in the parking lot of the Franz Bakery on Southwest Fourth Avenue.