Handyman Richard Watkins, 56, was found guilty this week of the first degree murder of 22-year-old Sierra High School grad Kelly Marelich and leaving her body in a dumpster behind Big 5 Sporting Goods in the 1100 block of South Main Street on March 15 of 2014.
She was found in the dumpster about 10:30 that Saturday night by homeless individuals looking into the refuse container who then called police.
The guilty verdict was handed down in the jury trial presided over by San Joaquin County Superior Judge Bernard Garber.
Police said Marelich was killed in a Moffat Boulevard motel room. One witness said the suspect put her body into a grocery cart and pushed it down South Main Street in the middle of the night where he disposed of it in the dumpster. Watkins had lived in the His Way halfway house for recovering addicts for a year and a half.
Manteca detective Stephen Schluer was the lead investigator in the case with the assistance of the California Department of Justice Crime Lab and the Investigations Unit of Manteca Police. Schluer was able to piece together complex evidence and arrest Watkins who had already been returned to prison for violation of his probation, ordering a DNA of the suspect through the Superior Court in Stockton. Watkins worked as a handyman in Manteca and Stockton.
“This was a very difficult case to investigate,” Sgt. Schluer said. “I relied upon DNA and forensic evidence. I am just glad that the Marelich and Henderson families now have some closure with this for Kelly.”
The jury was made up of seven women and five men who heard the evidence presented to them during the three week trial by Deputy District Attorney Kevin Mayo. Once the case was argued and given to the jury, it took them only a day and a half to reach their verdict, Schluer said.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.