12/19/2014

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Local & Regional

Many questions in triple murder as investigation continues

Many questions in triple murder as investigation continues
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The search is on for the suspects, and for answers in the triple murder in east Bakersfield. The three victims have been identified, and loved ones have many questions.

Zephaniah Matthews, 29, is the man who lived in the apartment in the 1700 block of Quincy Street. He was shot to death along with Junior Alfonzo Contreras and Daniel Watkins.

Watkins worked at Family Motors Auto Group off and on for the last three years, and he was personally hired by owner Jose Arredondo.

"I'm as shocked as his family," Arredondo told Eyewitness News Friday morning. He had seen Watkins hours before the shooting.

"He picked me up at the airport," Arredondo said. The business owner said his young employee picked him up at about 6:45 p.m., and then sent a message not long after.

"Before 8:00 he texted me, asking me if I got home safe, because he was following me because my car had a dead battery," Arredondo explained. That turned out to be three hours before Watkins was killed.

Kern County Sheriff investigators say it was just after 11:00 when two men in ski masks broke down Matthews' apartment door, and opened fire. The three men were killed, a fourth was shot and injured. Officers say two children and a woman in the apartment were unharmed.

Arredondo says Watkin's pregnant girlfriend was there, and she called him after the shooting happened.

"They were in a friend's house playing music," Arredondo says the woman told him. "Somebody broke into the house and starts shooting everybody, and she jumped behind a couch."

Arredondo can't understand why Watkins could have been a target for this violence. "I can spot anybody that is gang-related or drugs," he said. "I know that Daniel is clean as they can be."

Neighbors also insisted Zephaniah Matthews was not involved in gangs or drugs. They said he was trying to care for his two small children, and focused on his music.

The coroner's office lists Contreras as 23 years old, and a Ridgecrest resident. As of Friday night, the sheriff's office was not releasing the name of the man who survived the shooting. Spokesman Ray Pruitt said his condition was stable.

Pruitt also said there were no new developments in the investigation. On Thursday he reported investigators had not determined any motive for the shooting.

"We haven't been able to identify what, if any, relationship there is between these suspects and these 4 victims," Pruitt told Eyewitness News. "Or a relationship between these suspects and this apartment."

At Family Motors, Arredondo said Watkins had recently been re-hired. He'd started in sales, was promoted to work in their internet section, and was now being trained in the finance department.

"He was really going up the ladder from a business perspective," Arredondo said.

Sales Manager Rick Armijo agreed, and shares the staff's shock at why Watkins could have been shot.

"Such a violent situation for somebody to pass, you just never think of that with a Daniel Watkins," Armijo said. "You just never think of that."

He said the staff is devastated, and the company had a grief counselor available at the dealership. They're trying to come to grips with the death.

"I think it looks like just a situation of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time," Armijo said.

Co-worker Chris Scott said Watkins was well-liked, he was into his music, and he was trying to provide for his family.

"At least at the end of the day he's still here," Scott said. "No matter what, his daughter's still here and his unborn child." Scott says that gives him some comfort about Watkin's death. "I'm just happy for the fact there's still going to be a part of him here with us, no matter what."
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