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Man charged in murder of Jakov Dulcich pleaded not guilty

Posted at 11:14 AM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-23 18:48:44-04

UPDATE (April 23, 3:47 p.m.)

The man arrested in connection to the murder of local grape grower Jakov Dulcich pleaded not guilty on Monday and is being held on $2 million bail.

Mariano Fernandez Perez, 25, was charged with four felony counts, including first degree murder.  Other counts include shooting at an occupied vehicle, attempted murder, and possession of firearm by a felon.

Authorities arrested him when they pulled over a car occupied by Perez, a man from Delano who had been identified as a suspect in Dulcich's murder.

For three days following the murder, authorities said they looked for Perez. Authorities say there is still at least one more suspect outstanding who has not yet been identified.

Tonka Dulcich, wife of slain farmer Jakov Dulcich, shared with 23ABC this statement regarding his death: 

"He was one of a kind and extremely proud of him, he was a kind and gentle person who loved his family and wanted the best for his employees. He loved to see things grow. He was very loved."  

Dulcich founded Dulcich & Sons, which became internationally known for their "pretty lady" table grapes. 

The family later expanded and created Sunlight International. 

23ABC reached out to Sunlight International and received this statement,

"Pretty Lady Vineyards and Dulcich & Sons Inc. confirm with heavy hearts the passing of our founder Jakov Dulcich. The Dulcich family asks for privacy during this difficult time. We have no further comment at this time." 


The shooting near Delano happened on Wednesday, April 11th around 8:30 a.m. The Delano Police Department was dispatched to the area of Woollomes and S. Browning Road for a report of a traffic collision and shooting. When they arrived on scene, they found Dulcich suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.


The Delano Police Department began a homicide investigation. During their investigation, it was discovered that the crime had taken place within the jurisdiction of the Kern County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office Homicide Unit responded and took over the investigation.

It was learned that two vehicles were on S. Browning Road when an occupant of the suspect vehicle shot into the victim's SUV.

The victim's vehicle then proceeded southbound on S. Browning Road striking an additional vehicle that had pulled to the shoulder.

The suspect vehicle continued to the location of the collision and became involved in a physical altercation with the driver of the second vehicle.

During that altercation, at least one round was fired by the suspect but there were no injuries. The second victim fled into a nearby vineyard and the suspects fled the scene.

At this time, the investigation in ongoing.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Sheriff's Office at (661)861-3110 or the Secret Witness line at (661)322-4040.