Jorge Chavez Jr.
Ventura County – Nobody quite knows what 36-year-old Santa Paula resident Jorge Chavez Jr. was thinking early on the evening of May 13th when he allegedly approached 50-year-old transient Antonio Fuentes lying on a park bench and, according to Santa Paula Police Department Detective Randy Haumann, “poured a flammable substance and lit the victim on fire.”
Whatever Chavez’s intentions or motives may have been, Fuentes suffered critical burns to more than half his body and was taken to Ventura County Medical Center before being transferred to Los Angeles County’s Grossman Burn Center.
The following day, Chavez—having been identified by several witnesses to the attack—was contacted by Santa Paula police and arrested on charges including attempted murder, mayhem, assault with a caustic chemical, and committing a crime causing great bodily injury. Immediately pursuant to his arrest, he was booked into Ventura County Jail with his bail set at $1,000,000.
But when, on May 23rd, Fuentes succumbed to his injuries, Chavez was re-booked while still in custody at VCJ on new charges, including first degree murder and murder by torture and arson. While conflicting witness accounts have called the identification of Chavez Jr. into question, Haumann reported a high degree of confidence that authorities “have the right person in custody, basing this in part on our interview with the suspect as well as with witnesses.”
Chavez, the subject of “dozens of encounters” with local police beginning in 1999 that include multiple arrests for being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, weapons possession, driving without license, concealing a knife, and batter, remains in custody.
Photo: courtesy Ventura County Jail Booking