Stan Cooper

Salinas Polce Cmdr. Stan Cooper.

Nic Coury

There’s no body, but based on a year’s worth of detective work, the Salinas Police Department and Monterey County District Attorney’s office believe they have a strong case against 23-year-old Tai Cruz of Salinas, who was arrested Friday in the murder of 18-year-old Paulino Guzman III.

Guzman, also of Salinas, was reported missing in January 2016 by family members, but based on numerous interviews with witness and others, police came to believe by the summer that Guzman was dead, Cmdr. Stan Cooper said at a press conference Tuesday at police headquarters.

“The thing that makes this unique is that to this day, Paulino’s body has not yet been found,” Cooper said.

“Because that obviously brings about some unique circumstances, we began working very closely with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, and eventually we were able to secure an arrest warrant for the person we believe is responsible for Paulino’s death, and that is Tai Cruz.”

Cruz was arrested without incident late Friday afternoon at work on a $2.2 million arrest warrant, with a charge of one count of homicide. He was later booked into Monterey County Jail. Cooper expects Cruz to be arraigned by Wednesday.

Guzman was last seen on Dec. 12, 2015 outside a party at an apartment complex on the 2200 block of Main Street. His family reported him missing in January 2016, telling police they heard on the street that he had been killed, Cooper said. A missing persons investigation was opened up at that time.

Through numerous interviews police say they were able to piece together that Guzman got into an argument with Cruz the night of Dec. 12, over “some sort of personal disagreement."

“I think we can say at this point that Mr. Guzman fell victim to gun violence,” Cooper said. Police believe the incident is gang-related.

Cooper would not elaborate on where police thought the body might be, saying it’s an ongoing investigation.

“We still have quite a bit of work to do on this case. However, it was the opinion of this office and the District Attorney’s Office that we had more than enough information to charge Mr. Cruz with homicide,” Cooper said.

Guzman’s murder is being listed as the city's 36th homicide of 2016, Cooper said, even though he is believed to have been killed the month before, because records are kept from the time a crime is reported to police.

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