Q: In the 1980s, a young man was shot and killed execution style on Dyer Lane near Watt Avenue in Sacramento County. Did the killer ever get caught?
A: Manuel Heratio Alvarez, 20, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body about 9:30 p.m. March 9, 1995, on Dyer Lane, west of Watt Avenue and just north of the Sacramento-Placer County line.
Adolfo Ruben Verdugo, 51, and his 17-year-old son, Jose Manuel Verdugo, were arrested for the slaying. The senior Verdugo, a former investigator for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, fired three bullets into Alvarez after being given the gun by his son, according to stories in The Sacramento Bee.
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Alvarez was an acquaintance of the Verdugos and had lived with the family for a short time several months before his death. Two eyewitnesses told authorities that the shooting occurred after the four stopped to smoke marijuana on a stretch of Dyer Lane and that it may have been triggered by the elder Verdugo’s belief that Alvarez was some sort of police agent trying to “set him up.”
After Adolfo Verdugo was forced out of his state job, he reportedly couldn’t make it as a private investigator and turned to some nefarious activities. When investigators executed a search warrant at the Verdugos’ Sacramento home, narcotics officers found a small quantity of methamphetamine on the premises and Adolfo Verdugo’s wife, Lupe, also was arrested.
On Aug. 5, 1995, Lupe Verdugo, 47, was on diversion from the drug charge when she died of an overdose of prescription medicines, an apparent suicide.
In November, Adolfo Verdugo agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the killing of Alvarez. His son, as part of the same plea agreement, admitted to being an accessory after the fact and was placed on three years probation with the provision that he serve 245 days in jail.
Adolfo Verdugo, facing a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, was to be sentenced in January. But on Dec. 3, 1995, a registered nurse at the jail infirmary found him dead in his bed. An autopsy revealed that he died of acute coronary artery thrombosis, the Coroner’s Office reported.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.