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November 26, 2022

Greenfield man convicted of first-degree murder for killing supervisor

GREENFIELD — A Monterey County jury found Greenfield resident Imeldo Ramirez Merino guilty of first-degree murder on Oct. 14.

The jury also found true a special circumstance that Merino, 28, intentionally killed Benito Godinez Canales by means of lying in wait with personal use of a firearm, in addition to being guilty of two counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

On the evening of May 23, 2019, Merino fired several .45 caliber rounds in the direction of two homes, located in densely populated residential neighborhoods in Greenfield.

According to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, residents who lived in the homes allegedly had “beef” with Merino’s friend or owed the friend money. Merino fired from the passenger seat of his friend’s car during the drive-by shootings.

The friend was prosecuted separately and is currently serving time in state prison.

Very early on the morning of July 31, 2019, Merino texted and called his brother, a minor, to coordinate picking him up from his home in Greenfield. Merino planned to drive down to an agricultural ranch located in South Monterey County, not far from King City.

Merino, who worked as a daytime irrigator at the ranch, had a history of not showing up to work and his foreman, Canales, wrote him up on several occasions. The day before, on July 30, Canales suspended Merino from work.

“Merino planned to murder Canales and wanted to bring his little brother with him when he did so,” the DA’s Office said in a news release.

Merino drove his little brother and himself to the ranch. He arrived at the approximate location of the murder at about 4:53 a.m. Once he arrived, he waited until he spotted Canales driving on a levee road in his distinctive white GMC flatbed pickup truck, checking water pumps along the way. 

At about 5:30 a.m., Canales stopped to check the proper functioning of a water pump. Merino parked his car not far from the truck driven by Canales. Merino exited his car, walked up to the passenger side of the truck and shot Canales dead, eight times, emptying the magazine of his .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Immediately after the murder, Merino drove to a convenience store in Greenfield and treated himself and his brother to a “celebratory coffee,” the DA’s Office said. Video surveillance captured them both laughing and smiling while they chose their coffees and snacks.

Merino will be sentenced on Nov. 29 and faces a state prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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