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Silence shrouds San Joaquin Valley town after family’s early-morning assassination

Joshua Yeager
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux provides information about a massacre that left six people dead in rural Goshen on Monday. Federal and state agencies joined the sheriff during the Tuesday press conference.

GOSHEN, Calif. – Cars drove by the faded blue home on Harvest Avenue, slowing down to get a look at the yellow police tape still hanging – the color matches the lemons growing in the front yard tree.

Just before 4 a.m. on Monday, a brutal execution-style massacre left six people dead at the home.

The killings happened in a matter of minutes. But the shocking violence was still weighing heavily on residents days later. And while Goshen residents continue to mourn the losses, the violence has also silenced the grieving community – leaving many in this sleepy town fearful to speak about the tragedy for fear of retaliation.

In interviews, some residents expressed “Everybody knows everybody.”

“We’re all mourning the death of an innocent mother and her beautiful son, but we do not feel safe speaking out,” a business owner who declined to provide their name told KVPR. “This is a quiet, close-knit town. We’re in shock.”

Neighbors and business owners are particularly devastated by the death of 16-year-old Allisa Parraz. Investigators say the shooters stood over the fleeing mother as she clutched her baby, and shot her. A sleeping elderly woman was also killed, along with a 19-year-old man and two other adults.

Authorities identified the six victims earlier this week as Rosa Parraz, 72; Alissa Parraz, 16; Nycholas Parraz, 10 months; Marcos Parraz, 19; Eladio Parraz, 52; and Jennifer Analla, 49.

Joshua Yeager
Six people were murdered “assassination-style” in their home in Goshen early monday. The victims included a teen mother and her infant son.

Sheriff tries to calm community

Goshen is an unincorporated community with a single highway exit from Highway 99. The town is mostly Latino, cornered by farms and industrial properties.The community is economically-challenged, with some figures putting its poverty rate at 21 percent.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux assured residents they were safe after the killings.

He said the killings appeared to target the Parraz family alone, but acknowledged that fact is likely of little consolation to Goshen residents who remain on-edge.

“If I’m in my home and my neighbors were just massacred in a slaughter, I’d be scared, too,” he said. “ I’d be locking my windows and locking my doors.”

The department is offering $10,000 for information leading to arrests of the suspects.

County Supervisor Eddie Valero’s district includes the Goshen community. He singled out the infant’s killing as a tragedy on its own, and said a community meeting is being planned to address resident concerns.

“It breaks my heart knowing that this infant who had many, many years of life, tragically, was lost due to incidents occurring in the community,” the county lawmaker said.

Rural Valley attractive to gangs

Boudreaux struggled to recall a more disturbing scene in his 36 years of law enforcement.

“It’s shocking that we live in a community where this type of violence can exist,” he said. “Not only is it shocking for a small farming community; it’s shocking to our county, to our state … to the nation.”

While Monday’s violence is particularly extreme, the deaths follow a pattern of violence, particularly among gangs, that has afflicted the rural San Joaquin Valley in recent years.

Neighboring Kern County recorded the state’s highest murder rate in 2020 at just under 13 deaths per 100,000 residents – nearly double the state average. Local law enforcement attribute the spike to warring feuds especially among the Norteño and Sureño gangs, whose border straddles the two counties. But other factors include the Valley’s dense concentration of prisons, according to previous interviews with local sheriffs.

In October 2021, McFarland High School canceled its homecoming football game after two people were shot and killed in nearby Delano. The team eventually competed at Bakersfield College’s stadium, but the episode sparked outrage from policymakers and community members.

At the time, State Senator Melissa Hurtado called for Attorney General Rob Bonta to establish a regional task force to address violence in the southern section of the Valley.

Boudreaux said the rural San Joaquin Valley’s vast stretches of empty land and little-patrolled roads can serve as a silent breeding ground for gang activity.

“Gangs don’t typically want to be identified by law enforcement,” Boudreaux said. “So they will live peacefully in a quiet community … until something tragic occurs.”

California Home Shooting
Tulare County Sheriff's Office
In this frame grab from video provided by the Tulare Count Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux speaks to the media near the scene of a fatal shooting in Visalia, Calif., Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. (Tulare County Sheriff's Office via AP)

‘Deliberate, intentional, horrific’

Agents with the FBI, Homeland Security and other state and federal agencies joined the sheriff this week to update the public on the case.

Though, investigators still did not reveal why members of the Parraz family may have been targeted by the shooters. Boudreaux said the home was familiar to his deputies and had a history of gang and drug activity. Still, he pointed out many of the victims were innocent.

“Let me make this very clear: Not all of the people in this home were gang members and not all of the people in this home were drug dealers,” he said.

The brutal manner of the killings indicated possible cartel involvement, the sheriff said. Boudreaux later clarified that he did not suspect a specific cartel and that deputies are investigating “all possible avenues” leading to the massacre.

Three people survived the deadly shooting, including a man who dialed 911. He avoided the shooting rampage by hiding in a locked trailer outside of the home, Boudreaux said.

Deputies arrived just seven minutes after the 911 call, but it was too late. The family had been murdered and the shooters — detectives believe there are two suspects — had fled the scene.

“None of this was by accident,” the sheriff said. “It was deliberate, intentional and horrific.”

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.