Suspected of Anza murder, Riverside County man arrested in northern CA

ANZA, Calif., — Authorities today announced that a man accused in the October murder of an Anza man and was suspected to have fled to the North State region has been arrested and is awaiting extradition back to Riverside County. 

The initial murder investigation, which led to an hours-long lockdown and Shelter-in-Place order for area residents while deputies searched for the suspect, happened in the 61200 block of Indian Paint Brush Road, south of Hwy. 395 and east of Terwilliger Road.


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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 at the time.

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

Suspected in the Anza murder of Michael Mendoza, Benjamin Winkle was arrested in Placer County, north of Sacramento, on Sunday. RSO photo

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 was believed to have been barricaded within a residence.

Officials eventually determined the man, since identified as 36-year-old Benjamin Franklin Winkle, had fled the area prior to deputies’ arrival. 

Investigators later learned Winkle had possibly fled to the northern California area and enlisted the help of allied North State law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for him.

On Sunday morning, Nov. 28, Winkle was located and arrested by Placer County sheriff’s deputies. He was then booked into the Auburn Main Jail on his murder warrant, as well as a minor traffic warrant. Placer County Sheriff’s Department has not released any information as to what led to his apprehension and no other details of his arrest were immediately available.

Online jail records indicate he remains in custody, where he is being held without bail while awaiting extradition.

SEE ORIGINAL STORY: Suspect named in Anza murder may be headed to Northern CA

The victim’s older sister, Deanna Short, says she is still processing her brother’s death and has described her brother as a “beautiful soul who was taken home soon and will be missed very much.”

Michael Mendoza (Center) is seen with other family members in this undated family photo. Deanna Short/GoFundMe photo

“Michael was a kind hearted person that would have gave you his shirt off his back if you needed it more than him,” she went on to explain in a GoFundMe fundraiser. To date, nearly two-months after her brother’s murder, the fundraiser has only raised $70.

“My mom is really struggling to to to pay for his funeral service and a headstone so anything will help her out and would be very much appreciated,” the grieving sister explained.

Anyone with additional information regarding this ongoing investigation 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.