Suspect named in Anza murder – May be headed to Northern CA

ANZA, Calif., — Authorities yesterday publicly named a man suspected in the homicide of a local man found murdered at a private residence in the unincorporated community of Anza Wednesday, Oct. 6. Last week’s murder and subsequent investigation led to an hours-long lockdown and Shelter-in-Place order for area residents near the location of the fatal incident in the 61200 block of Indian Paint Brush Road south of Hwy. 395 and east of Terwilliger Road.

Over the next several hours a Sheriff’s helicopter was seen circling overhead, as deputies, SWAT members, investigators and others searched for the alleged suspect, who for several hours was believed to have been barricaded within a residence, according to officials.


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Deputies from the Hemet Sheriff’s Station were dispatched to the home around 4:30 p.m. after receiving reports of an assault with a deadly weapon, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Richard Carroll reported yesterday.

When deputies arrived they found a deceased male, who has since been identified as 37-year-old Michael Mendoza.

Deputies secured the area as a crime scene and investigators from the Hemet Sheriff’s Station and Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit responded and assumed the investigation.

The suspect, identified publicly yesterday as 36-year-old Benjamin Franklin Winkle, was not found hiding inside the Indian Paint Brush Road residence and was later determined to have fled the area prior to deputies’ arrival. He remains sought by homicide investigators.

According to the victim’s family, Winkle was believed to possibly be heading toward the Northern California areas of Vacaville and/or Susanville; however, it was not immediately known where they obtained that information. They have since created a GoFundMe account to raise money for their loved ones burial and other expenses.

Investigators are continuing to gather information and follow up on active leads regarding Winkle’s whereabouts, and officials have asked that anyone who spots the wanted man to not attempt to contact him, but to immediately call law enforcement.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation or who knows Winkle’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact Central Homicide Investigator Juarez at (951) 955-2777. Callers can refer to incident file number D212790053 and can remain anonymous.

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.