Early morning shooting kills woman and unborn child

On Tuesday, August 4th, 2020, at approximately 1:00 am, the Turlock Police Department received a call of an aggravated assault in progress in the 200 block of Twentieth Century Blvd. Officers arrived on scene within a minute and located a Hispanic female inside a vehicle who had been hit by a bullet. She sustained life threatening injuries and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.

The actual shooting occurred in the 500 block of Twentieth Century Blvd but the victim had fled to the 200th block of Twentieth Century Blvd. The suspect had left the scene prior to officers’ arrival. The victim was mostly unresponsive, but was able to tell officers that the suspect was driving a dark maroon SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Tahoe with a bullet hole in the door. The victim was also able to identify the driver as a Hispanic male and the passenger as a Hispanic female.

The victim has been identified as Amythest Rochelle Cortez, 27, of Gustine. Unfortunately, later that day, herself and her unborn child both succumbed to their injuries.

Detectives have been working tirelessly on this case since the morning of the shooting. Early on in the investigation, detectives identified the suspect as Robert Penaloza Jr., 29, of Turlock. It was learned that he immediately fled the area and was believed to be in Mexico. An arrest warrant was issued for him.

The Turlock Police Department worked with the United States Marshals Service and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to locate the suspect. Information was received that he was possibly living in Tijuana, Mexico. The information was given to Mexico authorities who ultimately located and arrested him. He was turned over to the Marshals Service and returned to the United States a short time later on Thursday, April 8th, 2021, where he was booked into the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on two counts of homicide, one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle, one count of prohibited person in possession of a firearm, as well as two unrelated warrants with various charges.

The investigation is still on going. Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Brandon Bertram at 209-664-7323 or by email at BBertram@turlock.ca.us. You can also leave an anonymous tip at the Turlock Police Department’s tip line at 209-668-5550 extension 6780 or by email at tpdtipline@turlock.ca.us.

Robert Penaloza Jr.

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