Tuesday, 05 March 2024

Murder charge against Kelseyville teenager dropped; another man charged

SONOMA COUNTY – A Kelseyville teenager arrested earlier this year for the shooting death of a Santa Rosa man will not be prosecuted for the murder, with another man now facing the primary charges in the case.


Santa Rosa Police arrested 17-year-old Marco Antonio Meza April 8, two days after the alleged driveby shooting of 18-year-old Luis Suarez, as Lake County News has reported.


Arrested with Meza, a suspected Sureno gang member, was Fernando Mendoza of Santa Rosa, who police said at the time was arrested for a parole violation.


But on Tuesday the Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua reported that a “continuing and cooperative investigation” between his office and the Santa Rosa Police Department had led to a first-degree murder charge being filed against the 21-year-old Mendoza, and the murder charge against Meza being dropped.


“Our office and the Santa Rosa Police Department consider not only incriminating evidence, but exonerating evidence, as well,” Passalacqua said. “When new evidence surfaced, we jointly investigated it thoroughly, resulting in not only the dismissal of a murder charge against one person but the issuance of an arrest warrant on the person we believe is responsible.”


Passalacqua said Mendoza also faces special allegations related to benefiting a criminal street gang and personal use of a firearm. Mendoza is due to be arraigned on the charges Oct. 15, with Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer assigned to prosecute the case.


Meza, whose name was previously released by police in connection with the case, was not named specifically in Passalacqua's Tuesday statement.


The initial investigation – led by Santa Rosa Police Det. Brad Connors and Sgt Steve Fraga of the Violent Crimes Investigation Team – focused on the teenager, who Passalacqua said sent incriminating text messages to a third party claiming that he committed Suarez's murder.


However, based on the new evidence, an arrest warrant was issued for Mendoza and the murder charges were dismissed on Sept. 23 against Meza, who faced being tried as an adult, Passalacqua said.


While Meza no longer faces the murder charge, he's facing charges related to the case that are now pending in juvenile court, Passalacqua reported.


Passalacqua's office said the juvenile proceedings are confidential under California law and cannot be disclosed to the public.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

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