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Santa Maria police arrest homicide suspect in Nipomo raid, second suspect on the run

Authorities have arrested 27-year-old Franklin Edgar Lopez in connection to the killing of Cruz Alberto Chavez Sandoval, 49, in Santa Maria on Sept. 1, 2018.

At about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Santa Maria police, along with assistance from the Santa Barbara County and SLO County Sheriff departments, raided a home in the 400 block of Orchard Road in Nipomo where Lopez and his brother, a suspect in four homicides, were believed to have been living.

Police took Lopez into custody, but his brother, 23-year-old Rafael Santiago Lopez, was not found and police believe he is currently on the run.

Rafael Lopez is a suspect in the slayings of Ramiro Ceja Gonzalez, Manuel Manzano Mata, Bernardino De Jesus, and Cruz Alberto Chavez Sandoval.

Gonzalez and Manzano were both shot multiple times in the area of East Jewel and North Vine Street in Santa Maria on Dec. 26, 2015. On July 4, 2016, De Jesus was shot to death in the 400 block of North Oakley in the city of Santa Maria. The most recent shooting happened on Saturday, Sept. 1, in the area of Sunrise and Bradley in Santa Maria where Sandoval was shot and stabbed. The victim dies as a result of his injuries.​​​​​​​

The Santa Maria Police Department credits the hard work of detectives since 2015 to identify the suspect or suspects in each of the mentioned homicides.

The investigations are ongoing. SMPD is urging anyone with information regarding these homicides or the whereabouts of Rafael Lopez to call the SMPD Detective Bureau at 805-928-3781 ext. 2278 or the police department’s tip line at 805-928-3781 ext. 2677.

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