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Police make arrest 10 months after body placed in dumpster
Richard Howard Watkins - photo by Photo Contributed

It’s been more than 10-months since the body of 22-year-old Kelly Marelich was discovered in a dumpster behind a Manteca dental clinic on South Main Street. 

And now Manteca Police believe that they have the man responsible behind bars. 

Richard Howard Watkins, a 49-year-old Stockton man, was charged on Wednesday with the murder of the Sierra High School graduate whose body was discovered by vagrants on March 15 of last year. 

Details surrounding how Marelich died and how Watkins was connected to her remain a mystery – the autopsy report, which took more than 9-months to complete, has been sealed by a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge at the request of Manteca Police Department investigators in an attempt to preserve evidence. 

But Watkins already has a past with law enforcement and it wasn’t hard for investigators to find him. 

He is currently incarcerated at Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy – a prison in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system – and has been there since April 14, 2014, just one month after Marelich was discovered. In a press release from the Manteca Police, Watkins was serving his time on an “unrelated offense” to which he was charged on Wednesday. 

The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office will prosecute the case and has been working closely with investigators and Marelich’s family – keeping them updated on the status of the case. 

“As a father that lost a daughter I don’t have the words to describe it,” Steve Marelich said. “I’m still numb over all it but I’ve got her sister and my ex-wife and my wife and they’re supporting me but they’re also leaning on me and I’m trying to keep a stiff upper lip through this thing.

“Right now we’re just focused on doing what we can to remember her and get the justice that she deserves.”