Investigations into a local homicide have led Santa Barbara detectives deep into a world of illegal narcotics, with millions of dollars worth of seized marijuana as a result.
On Sept. 17 the body of 23-year-old Adan Cervantes Ruiz was found wrapped in a sleeping bag along Highway 154 near Highway 101. The cause of death was attributed to a single gunshot to the chest and detectives determined that Ruiz was killed elsewhere and that his body was deposited on Highway 154. Later investigations found that Ruiz, prior to his death, was a suspect in the Sept. 24 marijuana bust, which was the largest in the county’s history. Detectives also determined that Ruiz was murdered along Highway 1 near Lompoc at the location of the marijuana fields.
SB Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Erik Raney said in a press release that illegal drug operations are dangerous and that the department will strive to shut them down.
“The murder of Adan Ruiz, regardless of his involvement with these illegal marijuana operations, illustrates the vicious nature of the persons involved in marijuana cultivation of this type,” Raney said. “Our dedication to the annual eradication efforts and our commitment to solve this homicide should send a message to these criminal organizations, that these types of operations will not be tolerated in our county.”
Detectives had alleged early on that Ruiz was part of an illegal drug cultivation operation and they believe the Sept. 24 bust confirms their suspicions. The bust, which resulted in the exhumation of over 90,000 plants at an approximate value of $275 million, was initially discovered by accident. Officers responding to a suspicious subject along Highway 1 near Lompoc requested the assistance of an air unit, which then discovered the vast marijuana fields growing on both sides of the highway.
Meanwhile, other leads brought homicide investigators to Riverside County in an attempt to flush out Ruiz’s acquaintances and prior activities.
On Oct. 20, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. Task Force served three search warrants in the city of Perris, south of Riverside. The raids resulted in five arrests, including Ruiz’s brother Reyes Ruiz, as well as the seizure of over 800 pounds of marijuana, valued at $2.6 million, and $80,000 in cash.
Authorities allege that Reyes Ruiz was present at the time of his brother’s murder.
On Tuesday, investigators returned to Riverside County and served three more search warrants in an attempt to gather more information on the death of Adan Ruiz.
In a press release, Raney said the searches in Perris connected Ruiz’s death to the busts in Lompoc.
“Evidence seized in the search warrants served in Perris, Calif. link the Highway 1 marijuana grow to a much larger narcotics organization,” Raney said. “Detectives have corroborated witness statements and evidence that now confirm that the murder of Adan Ruiz is linked to the Highway 1 grow, and hence to the larger narcotics organization. We are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the homicide, which remains a top priority.”