In search of a man wanted for murder

Detectives say he's been on the run six years, a murder suspect slipping in and out of Santa Rosa to see his children, while avoiding police and perhaps friends of the man detectives say he killed.

Ricardo Puentes, 33, standing 5-foot-9, avoids detection with help from family and friends, said Sgt. Steve Fraga, violent crime investigation supervisor. But he also works to change his appearance.

He's lost and gained weight, shaved his head, grown his hair long and pulled it back in a pony tail and at times dressed as a woman, sources told detectives.

Santa Rosa police have been looking for Puentes since a Jan. 15, 2005 slaying, calling him one of their most wanted suspected criminals.

"...he walked into an apartment full of people and in cold blood executed Semere Girmai and turned the gun on one of the witnesses," Prosecutor Traci Carrillo alleged. "He's been on the run since."

The Hoen Avenue shooting was fueled by a feud between cocaine and methamphetamine dealers with ties to gangs, said Fraga. It apparently erupted over control of drug clientele.

With several witnesses to the slaying, the identity of the shooter never was a mystery, police said. One accomplice was prosecuted and court testimony points to Puentes as the triggerman.

Puentes' arrest is the missing piece before detectives can finally close the case. And they want the public's help to catch him.

They've released his photo and announced a reward.

Sonoma County Alliance will pay $2,500 to anyone who gives police information leading to his arrest.

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