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Santa Rosa police release Most Wanted list


The gunshot that killed 19-year-old Juan Carlos Duarte came as he and hundreds of others were leaving a large dance about 1 a.m. at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Duarte and another man had exchanged words inside the Baile Mexicano event and outside in the parking lot. Moments later, in front of dozens of witnesses, a bullet fired from a medium-caliber gun hit Duarte in the head. A black Pontiac Trans Am with a gold eagle ornament on the hood and the shooter inside sped away into the summer night.

That was nearly 23 years ago, and Duarte's suspected killer, Francisco Sanchez Reyes — who would now be 61 — has never been caught.

He is one of 10 people, all of them men, who make up the first-ever Most Wanted list released this week by the Santa Rosa Police Department.

The list was posted on both the department's website and its Facebook page. It includes several wanted gang members — one sought by detectives for a brazen 2005 execution-style slaying of a rival gang member, another who stabbed a rival in the face on New Year's Eve in 2010 — and others with violent histories who are suspected of weapon offenses or violating their parole.

Police officials said the new effort, long associated with popular television shows and increasingly common among local law enforcement agencies across the country, is an attempt to generate public interest in some cases gone cold and allow the community another way to interact with the police department.

Acting Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder said he's hoping people will take a look, feel a little more connected to the department and hopefully, help solve crimes.

"It really is for people to see what's going on out there and to be engaged in public safety also, in a measured kind of way," Schreeder said.

Digital-age technology means such lists are no longer confined to courthouse posters, with social media especially driving an immediate and wider audience than was once possible through City Hall broadcasts.

"Now with Facebook, Twitter, Nixle ... it's going to be a lot more beneficial," said Santa Rosa gang Detective Robert Reynolds, who helped spearhead the effort to get the list online.

Choosing Santa Rosa's top 10 wasn't easy, Reynolds said. He notified the department's violent crime and gang investigators, looking for the most serious offenders who were still on the loose and had active warrants for their arrest. There was no shortage of files to choose from.

"There are so many people we could have put on there," Reynolds said.

The final list included three men wanted for homicide and others wanted on attempted homicide, weapons charges and assault. Seven are wanted or known gang members.

They include Ricardo Puentes Jr., 36, sought by Santa Rosa detectives and the FBI in the Jan.15, 2005, killing of Semere Girmai, 27, of Santa Rosa in what prosecutors and police have described as a cold-blooded killing motivated by disputes over drugs and gang turf.

Police said Puentes and two other men showed up at a Hoen Avenue apartment in the early morning hours. Puentes allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot Girmai several times in the head, face and chest and then shot another man in the arm.

The youngest assailant on the list is 21-year-old Eric Farias Gonzalez, who was 18 in 2010 when he stabbed another gang member in the face on Sioux Street on New Year's Eve, according to police. Days later, officers tracked him to a ranch in Point Reyes National Seashore, but he eluded them and remains at large.

Several of the cases are old and trails have long been cold.

But some of the suspects could still be in the area. And while some are believed to be hiding in Mexico, the suspects also may return to Santa Rosa periodically, Reynolds said.

Reynolds helped set up a similar most-wanted list while a Vallejo police officer, prior to joining Santa Rosa's department four years ago. He said the Vallejo list helped lead to more than 30 arrests annually from 2005 to 2008, when he helped oversee the list. The city's most-wanted program appears to no longer be active.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has had a most-wanted list on its department website for years. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said he could not immediately provide statistics on how well the program has worked.

"It's hard to say how effective it is because I don't have the numbers in front of me," Lt. Carlos Basurto said. "But we do feel it's another tool at our disposal where the public can help us and we can help them by putting out the photos and descriptions of suspects they need to know about.

"If we're able to solve one crime because someone looked at the list, it's worth it," he said.

Santa Rosa's list includes, for each suspect, a photo, physical description, aliases and tattoos.

All of the descriptions warn that the men pictured are considered armed and dangerous and anyone spotting them should call the department's new tip line: 543-4170. The line won't be answered but will be checked regularly. Callers can leave information either anonymously or give their name and contact information, Reynolds said.

Reward money will be available for productive tips, paid for by the Sonoma County Alliance, a business coalition. A representative from the organization could not be reached Thursday.

The reward amount will vary, based on how helpful the tip is and the severity of the crime, Reynolds said.

<b>Update:</b> This article has been updated to reflect the arrest of one of the 10 suspects on an outstanding warrant related to a community service requirement. Valentino Kumar has been booked into Sonoma County Jail on felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff WriterRandi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.